Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Iyar 5761 - May 9, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Observations: Abolishing Memorial Day

by M. Tzvi

Rav Shlomo Aviner, the rav of Beit El and a leading rabbi from the national-religious camp, has issued a statement suggesting the possibility of abolishing IDF Memorial Day (that immediately precedes Independence Day, usually held on 4 Iyar) and saying the Yizkor prayer for fallen soldiers on Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzma'ut) itself.

According to Rav Aviner there is no need to fix a day of national mourning for the war dead, and individual mourning is also questionable. In his opinion national mourning is established only for golus and churban, while "war casualties do not call for mourning. Mourning tears at the heart and weakens it during time of war," says Rav Aviner.

In his remarks Rav Aviner defines war as "a natural phenomenon" and explains that it exacts a price. "It's like a bridegroom who buys a nice apartment. The price was stiff and now he is bemoaning all the money he had to pay. Did you think it would be given to you for free? . . . Founding the state takes its toll."

He further claims that the halochoh does not allow for the establishment of a day of mourning for fallen soldiers. "The halochoh states that Yizkor--in which the names of the departed are mentioned, as on certain holidays--must be said and that the prayer does not require a day unto itself. The ideal situation would be not to have a separate day for soldiers who fell in Israel's battles."

In an interview with Ha'aretz Rav Aviner explains: "What I wanted to say was that it [Independence Day] cannot be allowed to convey messages of moaning and despair, but should focus on messages of appreciation for those who fell valiantly, devoted to the goal. Until recent times there was no record of a day of mourning being established by Chazal for soldiers who fell in wars in which we were victorious. Days of mourning were established only when we lost a war. A day of mourning was not established for those who fell during the victorious campaigns of Yehoshua Bin Nun and the Chashmonaim, because that was not the price. It is a hard price to pay, but it should not weaken the hearts of soldiers and of the people. The remembrance of those who fell in victorious wars is through Yizkor, which should really be said on Independence Day itself, and not on a separate day of mourning set aside for them."

Rav Aviner can certainly not be accused of anti-Zionism, and therefore his unusual remarks did not earn him bold headlines and acrimonious articles for having struck out at one of the symbolic vestiges of Zionism left in the State of Israel. Still, the writer from Ha'aretz who interviewed him could not refrain from asking, "People who read your statements might think you would show more sensitivity had you lost a relative of your own in war . . . " The fact of the matter is that Rav Aviner has talmidim and friends who were killed in war, but the reporter interviewing him did not consider this to be enough to fully entitle him to express his opinion on the institution of Memorial Day.

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