Monday, April 19, 2010

Even Children Remember

This morning in schools throughout Israel, the flag flew at half-mast as Jewish children everywhere remembered the soldiers who fell in the Israel Defense Forces as well as victims of Arab terror. Of course, there are professional nationwide ceremonies in the evening that are meaningful and grand, but I find the children's ceremonies to be the most moving.
Each year, the schools memorialize different soldiers from the 62 years we have been officially fighting for our survival. Dressed in white shirts and blue pants/skirts, the children do their best not to fidget, and to stay quiet and respectful - even in the blazing sun. The older classes put on little skits to remember the soldiers and they speak about the contributions the individuals made to our country.
The choirs sing and the children recite poems about other children before them that tried to understand war and loss.
Then when the Yom HaZikaron (Remembrance Day) portion of the ceremony is over, the trumpets blare and the Israeli flag is raised on the flagpole. Everyone begins clapping, because they know what to expect - the daglanim (flag procession). The children march center stage and literally wave the flag. They create all kinds of formations and complete their march with the anniversary year of Israel. This year, they made a 62. Well done, kids!

Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World)
In our community, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, tries to jump between ceremonies. Today, I believe he made it to two.
He told the following story:
During the Second Intifada in 2001, Rabbi Riskin was teaching a lesson in Yeshivat Siach on Efrat's northern hill Dagan. In walked a black soldier who sat down and took copious notes, and then left immediately Rabbi Riskin chased him to find out who he was.
The soldier, originally from Nigeria, came to Israel to join a conversion program and join the Army. The rabbi asked him why, and he said that when he was a child, a few Israeli soldiers came to his village in Nigeria to teach the locals more about farming and medicine, etc. He asked the soldiers why they had come all the way to Nigeria, and they replied, "Tikkun Olam" (repairing the world). He said that those soldiers had made such an unforgettable impression upon him that he also wanted to repair the world, and he came to Israel to become part of the Jewish nation and do his part.
The Rabbi invited the soldier, named Dan (after the tribe from which the Ethiopian Jews descend), to his home for Shabbat, and they made a date for a future Shabbat. Rabbi Riskin wanted to invite his entire family to hear this soldier's story.
Sadly, their Shabbat date was never kept. Dan was killed in battle only a few days after his meeting with Rabbi Riskin.
A few months later, the Rabbi was called by his wife to speak with some very interesting guests. They were Dan's parents. They had come from Nigeria to see what their son was seeking in leaving his homeland and his people for another. After talking with Rabbi Riskin, they decided to go to Netanya and enroll in a Hebrew-speaking Ulpan, so they could find out more about Dan's life.
After a year, they decided to convert and make their home in Netanya. Rabbi Riskin was invited to their home to hang their first mezuzah. They told Rabbi Riskin that their friends and family in Nigeria constantly called them to ask why they would leave Nigeria and make their lives in Israel. They answered simply in their son's own words, "Tikkun olam."
May all our people and indeed the people's of the world spend their energies on the positive actions that help repair the world. May Tikkun Olam reign amongst all man, and may we soon know the Redemption and the Rebuilding of the Holy Temple, which Isaiah called "a house of prayer for all nations."

1 comment:

  1. Immediately after the tekes at the school I drove to Shifon to get some bread for our BBQ tomorrow. On the way I picked up a young man who was on his way to Yeshivat Siach. I immediately told him the story I had just minutes ago heard from Rabbi Riskin. Although the young man has only been at Siach for four years, and the even Rabbi Riskin described took place almost 10 years ago, the boy was still quite amazed by the story, as is everyone who hears it. Thanks for retelling it here so well, and so promptly. May his sacrifice be an inspiration to us and to our children for many years to come!