09 July 2011

The Week of Days: Bookends

OK, so my last post was a bit audacious in that while I formulated seven different posts about the Week of Days, posting them in a timely fashion proved to be too much.

Instead, I focus on the first and last days of the Week, as they have different and meaningful lessons (and I want to start blogging forward, and fulfilling my previously posted promise will help). The week starts off with the most challenging day for me, Yom HaShoah veHaGevurah. As a day, it's actually very innovative, as it was instituted at a time in Israeli society where talking about the Shoah was a taboo .It's hard to imagine such a time, as the Holocaust has since then inundated every waking moment of Jewish life. As a child, I had nightmares of SS men storming our apartment building in Upper NW, which I later found out was a common occurrence among others my age.

There's a lot to say about this day, perhaps why it took so long to publish the first post, so I broke it down into categories of Jay's Issues with Yom HaShoah:

- Holocaust vs. Shoah: "Holocaust" comes from a Greek derivation meaning a sacrifice which went up in flames, while "Shoah" comes from the Hebrew meaning a catastrophe that suddenly came from out of nowhere. Both have their connotative drawbacks -- the former gives the impression of lambs being led to the slaughter, while the latter gives the impression that 1932 was its inception (and not 1919, or for that matter 1492 or 1099)

- Never Again: I love the irony of this phrase, as it originated with the black sheep of American Jewish mainstream and became the catchphrase of every youngster this time of year. Along with the next entry, it represents the dumbing down of Jewish identity, where education is supplanted by content-less experiential fluff (as I assume most "young Jews" are neither knowledgeable of its origins nor supportive of said organization and its actions). The latest "X-Men" film (which I so badly want to see) turn the phrase around, literally, making its contextual significance visible for all:

The other end of the Week of Days is Yom Ha`atzmau't (Independence Day), or more correctly, the consecutive 48 hours of Memorial & Independence Days. In trying to think how to relate to Independence Day this year, I kept thinking about Yom Kippur. For the twice-a-year observing Jew, the cathartic spirit of the day may be lost in the march to services and countdown to lox and bagels. There's a lot in common between the two days, in that they're both day-long periods for an entire nation to reflect on successes and setbacks, and how to move forward. Perhaps I was reading a few relevant bogs, or perhaps the collective unconscious caught up to me; either way, I was in shock to hear the Speaker of the Knesset's speech at the Lighting of the Torches ceremony (at the 20:00 mark, in Hebrew, on YouTube):

I love this ceremony, as it's one of the few moments every year that viscerally separates Diaspora and Israel through pomp and circumstance. But it was the President's speech that was the highlight this year, as he too was thinking about the connection between YK and YHa, as evidenced by his extensive paraphrasing of Kol Nidrei. Rather than talking only about achievements and accolades, he chose to speak of renewal and relevance in a way that gave me chills and made me proud to be living here. Putting into action, of course, is the next and bigger step; but, after all, it's a holiday.

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