Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

One year I was driving back from officiating at a funeral at one of the Jewish cemeteries on Pinelawn Road. As I approached the military cemetery I realized that it was Memorial Day weekend so I pulled into the cemetery. I parked my car and with my Rabbi's Manual in hand I walked the grounds searching for a Jewish grave marker. It did not take me long to find such a grave. I opened my manual and recited El Malei Rachamim (the traditional prayer said at a grave). It was a beautiful Spring day and the cemetery grounds had been manicured and prepared for the next day's services. The distance between sacrifice and every day life is far too great. I suspect it was less in prior generations, but in mine it is so great as to be almost invisible. I had to take a detour in order to see the multitude of sacrifice--thousands of crosses and hundreds of stars. I had to look through the beauty of Spring to see the simple grave with a Jewish star, standing among rows of thousands. I do not know how a country sustains a war--even one as righteous as fighting our avowed enemies of the Taliban and Al Qaeda--when ordinary people are detached from the sacrifices it demands. A soldier's grave derives meaning from the prayers of his fellow citizens. If we do not even know that these prayers are required of us then how we will sustain any war?

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