Cantor’s Corner

/Cantor’s Corner
Cantor’s Corner2019-03-31T11:36:59-04:00

Cantor’s Notes

On Wednesday, May 8, Israel will observe Yom-Hazikaron, and three weeks later Memorial Day will be observed here in the United States. The theme of the memorial day is to remember each country’s fallen heroes and recognize them for the ultimate sacrifice he or she made in defense of their homeland.

In Israel, Yom-Hazikaron is a day filled with deep contemplation and memorial services in cemeteries large and small throughout the country. The largest of these services is held at Israel’s main military cemetery atop Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. The Israeli flag is lowered to half-staff and for a full 24 hours, from sunset to sunset, all places of entertainment and shopping remain closed. The most notable feature of the day are the two soundings of the siren that are heard throughout the country, during which the entire nation observes a two-minute “standstill’ of all traffic and activity. The siren is sounded once at the beginning of the morning and again at mid-morning when the official ceremonies take place. All media – print, radio and television – is focused on the history of the wars and tributes to the soldiers as well as to all victims of terror within the country. A special ceremony is also held at Israel’s 9/11 Memorial (note: Israel is the only foreign nation to have erected a 9/11 Memorial).

At the end of the day, the flag is returned to full staff position. Then, at the moment that Yom Hazikaron concludes, Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, begins where music and parties prevail. The link between the days makes clear that without the sacrifice of the brave men and women of the defense forces, the independence of this small country would never have become a reality.

Memorial Day here in the United States has its moments of honor with the occasional parade and various military memorial services at cemeteries, notably Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. Yet notices of BBQ’s and fairs and store sales seem to pervade the airwaves, rather than tributes honoring our bravest.

In Israel, the idea that we are all responsible for each other permeates every aspect of life. It is particularly evident on Yom Hazikaron because everyone has experienced a personal loss; the country stops for a day and its people use this time to grieve and reflect.

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Passover. At the Seder table, we sang songs and ate foods which helped us to focus on the miracle of freedom which God bestowed upon us as we let Egypt. Freedom is sometimes the result of a miracle and sometimes the result of bravery and sacrifice. Let us make the effort this year and every year to remember why it is that we are free.

(With appreciation to Cantor Steven Stoehr)

Chanukah song sheet

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