Yom HaZikaron – A Day to Remember


Today was a very bittersweet day. Living in Israel is a paradox. It’s a country where there is a huge sense of faith in Hashem, in G-d, but also many people that run away from their Jewish identities. It’s a country where every young boy goes to the army as soon as he is old enough, and fights to protect our country from the enemies that surround it. Today was Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance.

In America, Memorial Day means a lot to a select few. In Israel, today means a lot to everyone. There is no one who doesn’t know someone who fell, or at the very least, someone who knows someone who fell. Today, I heard a very moving story that I am going to try to remember here.

A Rosh Yeshiva survivor of World War II had a teacher at his school who had a son serving in the army that fell during the first Lebanon War. After the Levaya, the Rosh Yeshiva turned to the bochurim (yeshiva students) in the van taking him back to school and said, “He was Kadosh.” He was holy. One of the other students in the van turned to him and questioned, “Rebbi, even the non-religious soldiers?” Without hesitation he responded, “They were ALL kadosh.” Then, without explaining himself he asked the driver of the cab to take him directly to the house where his colleague was sitting shiva, mourning for his son.

His colleague was shocked at the arrival of the Rosh Yeshiva, who was never known for spending any extra time out of his Torah learning, and said to him, “Thank you for coming, but it is time for you to return to Yeshiva.”

His superior turned to him and relayed the following story:
“You don’t know this about me, but I had a son who was taken out of my arms and executed. He was five years old, and I was not able to do anything to save him. Later, I traded my five-year old son’s shoes for food, but I could never eat it. I gave it away to someone else. When my son was taken, I knew he was a tzadik (righteous) but he went singularly; he didn’t save anyone else in the process. Your son was also taken from you, but he did so saving the lives of all of the Jewish people that live in the Land of Israel, making him a tzadik in his own right. I know that in shamayim (heaven) right now, my son is welcoming your Shlomo to a heavenly minyan, where your son is the Shaliach Tzibur (the leader of the group) in heavenly prayer. I never got to sit shiva properly for my own son, so please let me sit here with you for a little while longer.”

The Rebbe (teacher) replied, “Rebbi (my teacher), I didn’t think it was possible to be comforted, but you just comforted me.”

Two sirens sound on Yom Hazikaron, one in the evening and one in the morning. The sirens evoke emotions that are larger than life, bringing in images of soldiers knocking loudly on doors to deliver news that no one wants to receive; wails of mothers burying their sons, and an intense silence falls over the country: the silence of laughter that will never be heard again; the silence of a wedding that will never occur and children and grandchildren that will never be born.

The director of my school said that while the national response to these sirens is to stand in a moment of silence, she doesn’t think that it’s a very Jewish response. She said that a much more Jewish response would be to stand up and to pray to G-d on behalf of the fallen soldiers, to say tehillim for their souls to help them elevate higher and higher; that our prayer should enable them to daven in their own heavenly minyan.

People often criticize the religious population in Israel for being unwilling and ungrateful to the soldiers of the land of Israel, but this powerful story shows that the opposite is true – we ALL owe our lives to them. We owe our safety to them. Our ability to daven at the Kotel to them. But we also owe it to Hashem, our Father in Heaven, who made it possible for them to strengthen this country to be able to defend itself from it’s foes. Without this understanding; without soldiers in the army and soldiers learning Torah, the Jewish state loses all of it’s Judaism – it becomes a secular state with a mainly Jewish population, the antithesis of anything Jewish. that is the essence of Yom Hazikaron, which always falls during a time of mourning for the Jewish people. It’s not a coincidence that the date is during sefira, the counting of the Omer, when we are challenged with working on our character traits specifically concerning “ben adam l’chavero,” between a man and his friend. During this time it is essential that we recognize the kedusha, the holiness, of each and every one of the soldiers defending Am Yisrael (the Jewish people), and also that we realize that ultimately, everything is in Hashem’s hands.

A Little Wisdom


Not many of you know, but I’ve been working on a memoir (novel style) for the past year, and since I’ve unfortunately taken a bit of a hiatus from working on it (no one to blame but myself) I seem to have forgotten what I saved it as on my computer. While searching for it using every keyword I can think of, I came across this gem, and thought about not sharing it because when I wrote it seven years ago, I think I meant it to be private, but decided that it’s worth sharing.

My 12th grade English teacher gave our class a pretty cliche assignment – write a letter to yourself. As you’ll see, I wasn’t too excited about the assignment, because I saved it for the last moment. But what I wrote was relevant then and is still relevant now, and it was exactly what I needed to read today.

May 16, 2007

Dear Carly,

That was weird.  I mean, its weird writing to myself, and starting a letter to myself is a strange thing to do at eight o’clock when I know that I should be working on my term paper before it ends up being fifteen pages.  Even though it will be fifteen pages, whether I do it tonight or not.  Okay, now I need to stop rambling.

I’m going to try.  I don’t know why I waited until the last minute to start this letter.  Whenever I get an assignment like this, I always wait until the very last minute because I guess I’m afraid of the future.  I’m afraid of what is going to happen four years from now and I’m afraid that I wont remember any of the people that I’m going to mention or I will remember then but I wont talk to them anymore.  I really try hard not to be afraid of change but it’s so hard because everything happens so fast and most of the time there’s nothing I can do about it.

Like this year.  It has been such an up and down year and I have felt so many things and I have been so afraid of not being able to make it and then finally I have been so happy to be alive.  Before this year I cannot ever remember crying tears of joy but I did it, and I looked like an idiot, crying tears of joy in my car.

I hope that four years from now I still read as much as I do now.  I hope that I never lose the wonder of diving into a book and not coming out for days and days.  But mostly, I hope that I still write.  Right now, I find such wonder in words and letters and sentences so much that the feeling of a pen or a pencil in my hand is like home.  I don’t know what I would do with my life if I didn’t have my poetry.  College will give me many opportunities to make my performance skills better too, and I hope that I still talk to Mr. Simmons enough to invite him to my performances and have him feel less awkward about coming.

I have to keep in touch with Mr. Simmons.  Not just because he is the poetry club person, but because he gave me the motivation to keep my pen in my hand even when I thought that I couldn’t do it anymore.  And sometimes, it made me really really really mad.  But I did it anyway because writing is like a drug and without it you can seriously injure yourself.  But with it you can save yourself from more things than just yourself.

I really hope that in four years I still know who my friends are: I mean like my real friends, not just the ones that I ask for help on homework or gossip with.

I must mention Jonathan.  Its kind of funny, because at this time last year Jonathan and I had just been together for a month, and now looking back so much seems to have changed, when really, nothing did at all.  Jonathan and I went from never talking to each other outside of school to being practically attached at the hip, and now I feel stronger for him than I ever thought I’d be able to feel about a person.  The bond that we have is a special one, and I cannot imagine a day without telling him everything that happened or sharing a laugh.  He talks about forever, about spending one hundred years together, and as much as I’d like to believe him, I hope that I don’t let him get in the way of my dreams.  I want to experience everything, I want to see the world, and I want to share it with him.  And then, when I’m ready to settle down, if it’s with him, then that will be good.  But if its not, well, that will be good too.  I’ve never been the kind of person to plan my life around a guy, and I don’t plan to be that person anytime soon.  But I know that I love Jonathan more than I knew a person was capable to love.  And I am lucky to have experienced that love.  To be experiencing that love.  And as much as I would like to be sitting next to him reading him this letter in four years, I will not say that it is definite.  I might be, but like I said, if its not, that will be okay also.

I’m not going to lie and pretend that I am thrilled to be leaving high school.  I mean, I’m proud that I did it, and I’m relieved that I don’t have any more work to do, but I’m going to miss the structure and seeing everyone every day.  Mostly, I’m going to miss lunches with Mr. Simmons and Mrs. Corlies’ seamless transitions from one point to another (hopefully I will learn that skill myself!) and sitting in the grass and reading poetry with Mac and just sharing moments that seemed so meaningless but were so full of sustenance with so many people that I care about more than I will ever admit.

I’ve never been very good at the whole run-on sentence thing.  I mean, I write them like its my job.  It’s the one thing that anyone would find in reading any of my papers from however old we were when we started writing to now.  Run-on sentences are my thing.  It’s because I just write the way that my brain tells me to and sometimes that results in a run-on sentence.  or a fragment.  But I’m rambling again.

I could try to search my mind for a last word of wisdom, but the only thing that I would find is a pun or a joke that no one but me will think is funny.  That tends to happen a lot.  Not that I mind or anything.  I love every second of it.

The point of the matter is that the most important thing that I learned this year is that it’s okay to make mistakes and admit it.  It’s okay to write the occasional run-on sentence and it’s okay to realize that I’m alive after sleepwalking for so long.  Have fun with life.  It’s a good thing.

Good luck,

Carly

Weather Patterns


I really wish that I was sitting by a lake right now typing on my laptop instead of in my office, closed up on the 24th floor of a building.

Notice I said lake, not beach. I’m not a beachy kind of gal. I much prefer a woodsy waterside, without sand (I HATE sand), with lots of rocks and preferably, a quiet dock that I can sit on. With a book, or a notebook, or nothing at all.

One of my favorite memories comes from a weekend aside a beautiful body of water like the one I described — it wasn’t a lake, but a bay in Maryland, and my best friend took me down there for the weekend. Her mom, mom’s friend, my friend, and me loaded up the car and trekked all the way down to the Maryland bay (after one episode of car-sickness). We stayed in a beautiful lakeside cottage and spent all weekend antique-ing and next to the water. The sun didn’t come out once; we ate roasted chicken and garlic as we watched movies next to the floor-to-ceiling window panels; and we went swimming in the bay on a cloudy afternoon.

I just breathe better when I’m near fresh water.

Most days, I don’t even get to venture outside. But today, I couldn’t resist the sunshine (and I couldn’t put off my need to return a dress to Macy’s any longer!) so I decided to go outside.

It really feels like March, doesn’t it? It’s really insane to think that this time last year I was slipping and sliding down city streets in boots not equipt enough for icy conditions. And the year before that, the whole closed just a few weeks ago due to the biggest snow-storm to hit Philly in almost 15 years.  Jonathan and I were stuck in my house with no cable, no internet, and just enough heat to stay warm. We walked to the corner store to get six-packs of beer and my roommate made a snow angel in the middle of the street.

Tomorrow is groundhog day – a funny tradition, when you think about it. A groundhog sees his shadow, and the winter lasts an extra six weeks. The groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, and spring comes early. Except where there’s shadows, there’s sun. And the groundhog doesn’t even know what a shadow looks like.

When the weather patterns, we make memories. Sunny days like today remind me of Spring, of a promise for more.

I just never thought I’d see that promise February 1st.

p.s. If the groundhog sees his shadow tomorrow, it’s going to be a bad year for Punxsutawney Phil!