Screaming, grabbing, laughing. Threats of violence, retribution and tickling. The moderator had come up with a successful plan to keep everyone involved, invested and most important, awake at three in the morning during the all-night Shavuot study session.
Our group had been given 27 cards with different concepts, values, mitzvot, historical events, places and dates on them, and we were supposed to come up with the three most important aspects of Judaism by voting in a series of elimination rounds.
It was the last round, and we were down to four cards. Negotiation and back room politicking over, we had one remaining slot to vote for. Already established in first place were Shabbat (The Sabbath) and Kashrut (The Dietary Laws), and now the final decision needed to be made, between Yom haZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom haAtzma’ut (Israeli Independence Day).
The argument of the majority was simple. That without the sacrifice of Yom haZikaron, there could have been no Yom haAtzma’ut.
They claimed that Yom haZikaron preceded Yom haAtzma’ut in importance, as the later was dependent on the former.
The opposition held firm. We argued that while that was true, it was also the case that without Yom haAtzma’ut there would be no Yom haZikaron. Gasps of horror, outrage, and disbelief and cries of “sacrilege” and “disgrace” were heard around the table.
If, Gd forbid, Israel had lost the War of Independence, there would be no national memorial day. No day to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the state of Israel, because there would have been no state and no authority to legislate such a day. Perhaps the lives lost and the hopes destroyed would have become part of the story of Tisha B’Av, but there would not be a Yom haZikaron.
The fallen would still have fallen, but this memorial to them only exists because Israel exists. What distinguishes the mourning of Yom haZikaron is Yom haAtzma’ut.
The sacrifice of Yom haZikaron does not stand alone, but sanctifies and is sanctified by the lives of those of us that sacrifice defends.
In any case, our side lost, and the group chose Yom haZikaron. Neither of the days made it to the final round of voting in any of the other groups playing that night. And I don’t know if anyone else who was there remembers that heated, tearful discussion. It was nearly four in the morning by the end after all. But every year I remember, and think about the connections between the days of sadness and joy. And the connections that bind us all together into one people.
Which would you have picked?
Welcome, I’m Havva Mahler, practitioner of Chinese medicine. Basically, I’m like a couples counselor who specializes in the most important relationship in your life, the one between you and your body. You can find out more about me here. Get in touch with me here. Or sign up to get the next blog post delivered straight to your inbox here.