Guest post by R. Dovid Gottlieb
Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb made aliyah with his family in August, 2009 and currently lives in Ramat Shilo. Prior to moving to Israel Rabbi Gottlieb served as the rabbi of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore, MD. He is currently a rebbe at Yeshivat Ashreinu as well as a popular lecturer for adult education programs in both Israel and the United States.
Earlier today I had the privilege of joining thousands of others for the memorial ceremony at the Kefar Eztion Regional Cemetery, where we paid our respects to those who’ve died al kiddush Hashem and have given their lives for the State of Israel.
The ceremony began with the piercing sound of the siren, as all of the individuals standing together – little children, teenagers, parents and grandparents – came to a sudden and unified silence. While the siren sounded my heart was in my throat, my eyes welled up, and my mind raced. I thought about those who have been killed and those who they left behind; about what it means for us as a nation and what it means for me as an individual – as a husband and as a father.
As the siren sounded I thought about why I was standing in this place with these people and many ideas came clearly into focus:
I am standing humbled by their sacrifice.
I am standing in awe of their courage.
I am standing filled with love for complete strangers.
I am standing with a feeling of insecurity that I have not given what so many others have.
I am standing in fear that one day it could be me or my family.
I am standing with pride that I am a citizen of the State of Israel.
I am standing with tears in my eyes as I consider the orphaned children.
I am standing amazed by the heroism of the select few.
I am standing with a broken heart when I think about the parents burying their children.
I am standing with the full knowledge that if not for them we would not be here.
I am standing in appreciation of their selflessness.
And most importantly,
I am standing together, as one, with my brothers and sisters.
The Eish Kodesh (p.23) notes that a person who is moser nefesh, sacrifices himself, on behalf of the Jewish people is even greater than someone who dies al kiddush Hashem “just” out of loyalty to Hashem. He explains this startling statement by means of a very simple analogy. Some people may be willing to die to protect the king, but a person who is willing to die not only for the king but even to save his children demonstrates his ultimate love and loyalty.
What can we say that would adequately describe the heroism of those who have given their lives in defense of our homeland? What can we do to sufficiently show our appreciation for those who died so that we – the king’s children – may live? What can we tell the families of heroes like Daniel Mandel, hy”d, whose grave I visited earlier today?
I don’t know.
All I know is that the least we can do is to remember them and appreciate their sacrifice.
תהא נשמתם צרורה בצרור החיים
May the souls of the kedoshim be bound up in the bonds of everlasting life.