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Honoring Our Heroes: Reflections on Memorial Day

As we approach Memorial Day, a time dedicated to honoring the brave men and women who have given their lives in service to our country, it is fitting for us to reflect on how our Jewish values and traditions intersect with this important national commemoration. Memorial Day is not just a moment for barbecues and the unofficial start of summer; it is a solemn day of remembrance, a day to honor the sacrifices made to secure the freedoms we enjoy today.


In this week's Torah portion, Parshat Behar, we are reminded of the principles of justice, community, and the sanctity of the land. Parshat Behar introduces the concept of the Sabbatical year (Shmita), where the land is given a rest every seventh year, and the Jubilee year (Yovel), where all debts are forgiven, and all land is returned to its original owners. These practices underscore the importance of rest, renewal, and the equitable treatment of all members of society.


Drawing from Parshat Behar, we can find profound connections to the spirit of Memorial Day. Just as the Shmita and Yovel remind us of the need to care for our community and ensure justice and fairness, Memorial Day calls on us to remember those who have given their lives to protect these ideals. It is a time to pause, reflect, and renew our commitment to the values for which they fought.


Here are several ways we can honor those lost in American wars and conflicts, drawing inspiration from our Jewish heritage and the lessons of Parshat Behar:


1. Take a moment of silence to reflect on the sacrifices made by soldiers throughout history. Consider attending a Memorial Day ceremony or visiting a local memorial to pay your respects.


2. In the spirit of Shmita, which emphasizes care for the less fortunate, donate to organizations that support veterans and their families. Acts of tzedakah are a powerful way to honor those who have served.


3. Engage in a community service project, such as helping to maintain veterans' memorials or supporting initiatives that aid military families. This aligns with the communal responsibility highlighted in Parshat Behar.


As we commemorate Memorial Day, let us draw strength from the teachings of Parshat Behar. Just as the Torah commands us to ensure that no one is forgotten or left behind, let us ensure that the sacrifices of our fallen heroes are honored and remembered. May their memories be a blessing, and may we continue to strive for a world of justice, peace, and community, embodying the very values they fought to protect.



Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel


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