DAY 695: Some Memorial Day Thoughts — Uniquely American Together

May 26, 2014
By bethmordecai
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DAY 695: Some Memorial Day Thoughts — Uniquely American Together

Dear Hevreh,

As I was preparing to sit down to write these words, I came across an email from the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) sharing the story of Jewish American soldier, Sergeant David Rosenkrantz, who was killed in World War II. I read his story after watching President Obama share the stories of children, spouses, and parents who also made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their nation. These stories, while powerful and moving, also left an indelible impression that the purpose of Memorial Day is not to rally our country behind the shared ideals that are worth protecting and make us all American, but to honor the individuals and the families who actually protect America, thus making them uniquely American. As President Obama said at the end of his address, “these Americans have done their duty, and they ask nothing more than that our country does ours.”

In our parashah discussion this past Shabbat, we discussed why the Levites were not counted in the census to determine the numbers of Israelite men qualified for military service. One minyan-goer responded that God’s command to not take a census of the Levities, who were destined to be the priests and servants of God’s sanctuary, was made in order to preventjealousy or antagonism against the Levites because if you knew the numbers of potential Levite soldiers (via a census), then you could argue that they should also participate in military duty! In other words, the Torah seems to be indicating that when there is a differentiation among subgroups, like between the Levities and the rest of the Israelites, then there is a possibility that jealousy or antagonism might develop amongst those unique subgroups as to whose national role is more important.

How much more so is this the case in our country when only a fraction of our fellow countrymen are called upon to serve and protect the values of their country. How much more so is this the case in our country where there is no kind of mandated national service program that would liberalize the shared sacrifice to uphold our national values and would inculcate the ideals that make our country unique. When it comes to patriotism, our language is more “us” vs. “them,” than “us together.” So on this Memorial Day, let us honor the lives and the sacrifices of unique men and women who have protected and honored their nation, and let us also consider how we can all be uniquely American.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Ari Saks


*Photo of World War II Memorial taken from —

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