My Yizkor Sermon

Before Yizkor (the memorial service) this past Thursday (Shemini Atzeret) I talked about Gilad Shalit. This is a summary of my remarks.

We expect Judaism to provide us with guidelines on how to pray and worship God. Judaism is supposed to help us with rituals and a liturgy in order to feel God's presence.

But Judaism is more than a house of worship. It provides us with an ethical and moral code which helps us navigate life every day. From the mundane - like not cheating on a test - to the most complex - like end of life issues - Judaism provides us with tools that help us make the right decision. In the process we also feel connected to God.

What happens when these ethical principles collide? Judaism teaches us that if we save a life it's as if we've saved the whole world (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5) and it also teaches us the welfare of the community/State is important. Should Gilad Shalit have been released? Is the answer clear cut?

Yossi Klein Halevi - writer for The New Republic and Commentary among others - wrote a piece on the website (click here to read it) in which as a father of an Israeli soldier and an Israeli citizen he conveys his ambivalence about the release. He quotes a person who was protesting against the release, "We're protesting to save future victims of freed terrorists. Those victims don't have names yet. But they could be my son or your son."

Yet upon his release Halevi concludes the article by saying, "For all my anxieties about the deal, I feel no ambivalence at this moment, only gratitude and relief. Gratitude that I live in a country whose hard leaders cannot resist the emotional pressure of a soldier's parents. And relief that I no longer have to choose between the well-being of my country and the well-being of my son."

How do we know which decision is right? Today we could decide one way and next week it could be another way. And that's okay. We look to family and our tradition to help us and we know that with their support our decision will be supported. May we always find strength and inspiration in our tradition.


  1. Dear Rabbi,
    Yes, it was a complicated decision.
    But, once the hard choice was made, what a joy to welcome Gilad back home it must have been. There have been precious few moments of joy for Israelis recently, and not so recently. I am happy and thankful that this son was returned to his moledet and home.
    I only pray that he will be well after five dark years.


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