When I drive to Farmingdale to officiate at a funeral, I always pass the military cemetery and take note of the thousands of white markers which are tokens of honor for those who have lost their lives fighting our wars. Each marker represents a human life that was cut short, and a family whose loved ones paid the ultimate price on behalf of our country.
Fortunately, as we approach Memorial Day, few of us have experienced the terror and brutality of war. But as I receive notices of various Memorial Day sales and special events, I regret that this day has too little meaning for too many people; too many who give little or no thought to what this holiday is really about.
So does it behoove us to remember that we have paid a dear price for our freedom, and for our desire to fashion a more civilized world. And yes, we need to explain to our children what this day really means, and to remind them that we are all blessed to live in a very special country, even as we are mindful that we have far to go in “bringing the peace of the heavens down to earth.”
I am always inspired and moved when I read the following passage from our prayer book:
“The young soldiers do not speak…They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say: We are young. We have died. Remember us.
They say: We have given our lives, but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Whether our lives and our death are for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say; it is you who must say this.
They say: We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.”
May we all find at least a few moments this Memorial Day to think about those who gave and lost their lives. As we live in a world that endures so many wars and bloody conflicts, we hold on to our ideal that one day the peace for which we pray will be realized.
Rabbi David Greenberg