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Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

By: Mrs Michal Porat-Zibman

his week's double parshah of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, begins with the events that followed the untimely deaths of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu, a few parshiyyot ago. The opening words, "Acharei Mot," "After the death of," do not merely give us the chronological sense of when this discussion of the mitzvot of Yom Kippur, the responsibilities of the Kohanim, and other issues were discussed, but rather to give us a deeper message. 


Upon hearing of the death of loved ones, of those who were taken at a time of religious service, of national obligation, such as Aharon's sons who died during the dedication of the Mishkan, one could be left emotionally paralyzed, deflated of energy to continue, unable to move forward in Avodat Hashem. The Torah records Aharon's famous response right after the event with the words "Va-yidom Aharon," "Aharon was silent." There is a time for silence, for holding back, for taking it in and for personal introspection. But this is meant to be a temporary state, not a permanent one. One must move forward, one must continue to live and to create and to establish and to worship and to love, not to ignore the past, but rather to take it with him. Perhaps this is why we begin with these words, "Acharei Mot" -- the pain of the past is part of the present; the current Avodah is intrinsically connected to what happened yesterday. Whatever great things were going to happen in the service of God tomorrow would be part of yesterday's pain.

In the second part of this week's double portion, we receive the famous command of "'ve-ahavta le-re'acha ka-mocha," loving our fellow Jew (Vayikra 19:18). When the Torah writes this command, it ends off with the words, "Ani Hashem": "You shall love your fellow Jew; I am God." Much has been written attempting to understand the connection between a love of Am Yisrael and a knowledge, an awareness of God. The great Chassidic master, Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin (1797-1850), explains that when a person sees a strong chevrah of friends together, orsees in a friendship what one friend is often willing to do for another or how much they love each other, it's only natural for this person to desire to want to be part of this friendship, part of this group of people who love and care for each other. That's the message and the challenge of "ve-ahavta le-re'acha ka-mocha" -- that we must care so deeply for other members of Am Yisrael, worry about them and love them, that Hashem will want to be a part of us as well and thereby rest His Shechinah amongst the Jewish Nation. 


This week, throughout the Jewish world and especially here in Eretz Yisrael, we commemorated Yom HaZikaron, memorial day for Israel's 22,682 fallen soldiers. Ora Leffer-Mintz, who lost her 19 yr-old son, Staff Sgt Raz Mintz, when he was murdered by terrorists while patrolling the area near Beit El and Ofrah on November 2nd, 2001, wrote an editorial in one of the Hebrew newspapers this week titled, "Please embrace us tomorrow as well." In this piece, she writes how Yom HaZikaron is a day of such unity, where she feels such embrace from Am Yisrael and it is tremendously comforting. But when the day is over, the embracers continue on with their normal lives, while the embracees are left with their pain and loneliness until the next year, when Yom HaZikaron comes out again. She therefore asks Am Yisrael to please "embrace us tomorrow as well," not to forget the fallen and not to forget those left behind when the commemoration ceremony is over.

Baruch Hashem, as the Jewish Nation, we have so much to be proud of. We have wonderful institutions of Torah learning, chesed projects in every community, dynamic shuls, and incredible funds dedicated for tzedakah. But as we continue with our lives post-Yom HaZikaron, let us not wait another year to remember the brave and the fallen. Let us daven for those left behind, for the parents who had to bury their children, for the children who had to bury their parents, for the brothers and sisters whose families will never be complete again, and let us constantly remember that all the great levels of Avodat Hashem that we merit in Eretz Yisrael, whether we live here or visit here, are a result of the sacrifice of these men and women. 

Perhaps, if we can be in constant awareness of the Acharei Mot, of knowing that tomorrow's accomplishments are a result of yesterday's sacrifices, then today we can embrace the fallen and their families by having them in mind in our tefillot. Maybe it will enable us to truly internalize vAhavta laReacha Kamocha on a different, yet very profound level. Yehi ratzon that the number 22,682 will be the final number of those killed defending the Jewish Homeland. May we learn to care about one another and to be concerned with one another so much that Hashem will want to be a part of us, and will thereby enable us to feel His presence on a much closer level: "Ve-ahavta le-re'acha ka-mocha, ani Hashem."




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