This week we observed Yom haZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut- [Israeli] Remembrance Day and [Israel] Independence Day. These two days are modern observances, introduced to us with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
Future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the State of Israel on the 5th of Iyar, which corresponded to May 14, 1948.
As soon as the fledgeling country Israel was established its neighbours declared war, hoping to annihilate it. Over six thousand young men and women died, defending their rights to a Jewish State. Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) is observed the day before Israel Independence Day to honour and remember those who lost their lives defending the barely formed country.
When I looked at this week’s Torah portions I was struck by their names.
The names of these two neighbouring parshiot perfectly describe our two holidays. אחרי מות “Acharei Mot” means “After the Death”, and קדושים “Kedoshim” means “Holinesses” – or “You Shall be Holy”. The titles given to the Torah readings remind us the sequence of events: the people who have died since 1948 defending Israel’s right to exist, and our responsibility to cultivate Israel, celebrate and experience Israel, and ultimately to live in Israel, our country.
The readings this week are lists and lists of laws dictated by Gd. Many of the rules are followed by the words “I am the Lord” or “I am the Lord your Gd”. Nestled among guidelines concerning ownership, business practice, sacrifices, sexual behaviour, and harvesting are laws concerning relationships. We read the command, “…you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord your Gd.” (Leviticus 18:19) This is a command- not a suggestion.
In these bizarre and frightening times, in the days where the world is swept by Covid-19 this statement is deeply profound. Surrounded by people who may be infected, who are isolated, who are depressed, who have lost their jobs, or worse, who have lost loved ones, these words and this law is important to integrate into our minds and our lives. Gd is telling we cannot take care only of ourselves. We must not ignore those suffering around us. Gd is making the demand that “…you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord your Gd.”
There is evidence of that happening. Health care workers, food producers, phone “buddies”, and volunteers.are loving their neighbours as themselves. Researchers are forging ahead trying to find a cure and are sharing their findings. Following Gd’s demand, we will pull through. If we remember the words now and after the pandemic has passed the world will be a better place.
May your week be safe, healthy, giving, and generous. Shabbat Shalom, Laya
Happy 72nd Birthday, Israel, and many many more!