The standard Jewish toast is L’Chayim, to life! Yet, during its last 65 years, the Jewish state of Israel has experienced a disproportinate share of death. 25,578 people have died as a result of war and terrorism.
This fact headlines the newspapers today in Israel. It is Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, where fallen soldiers are remembered in ceremonies around the country.
What is Unique About Israel
This day in itself is nothing unusual. Most countries have a Memorial Day. Yet, as we the sun sets on Memorial Day, the country begins Independence Day! Streets fill with people preparing to watch fireworks and celebrate their freedom and independence in a sovereign nation.
Why the rapid transition? Is it psychologically healthy? Shouldn’t we have room to mourn our losses before celebrating our victories?
The rapid shift proclaims an audacious message. Only when we acknowledge death can we fully appreciate gift of life. Remembering our loved ones reminds us of the imperative to live.
The Courage to Rejoice
In this regard, Jewish tradition echoes beautiful words of playwright Thorton Wilder, “All that we can know about those we have loved and lost is that they would wish us to remember them with a more intensified realization of their reality. What is essential does not die but clarifies. The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.”
In other words, we remember by living. Our lives proclaim the faith that those we loved live on through us. Or, as Kierkegaard put it, “It requires moral courage to grieve; it requires religious courage to rejoice.”