Memorial Day – Hakaros HaTov

Today is Memorial Day here in the United States. It is the day that we mourn those soldiers who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms offered by this great land.

Although we are still in Golus, it’s incumbent upon us to appreciate all of the good bestowed upon us by our country and to honor the memories of those brave men and women who fought and died to protect our freedom.

So today, be you democrat or republican, conservative or liberal or anywhere in between, take a moment to offer your thanks to the over 1,000,000 soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom.

First published May 29, 2006.

37 comments on “Memorial Day – Hakaros HaTov

  1. Here, whichever choice is made, someone could be ticked, so just do the right thing.

  2. Bob:

    Maybe it’s the prevailing atmosphere of political correctness: Don’t say anything that could possibly offend anyone.

  3. It seems fashionable now for shul schedules to refer to a “legal holiday”, while pointedly not naming it. That makes sense for a non-Jewish religious holiday when banks etc. are closed, but for Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day or the 4th of July? Come on! Is this to suggest, chas v’sholom, that the latter four days are too shameful to mention properly?

  4. For those who are interested in or want a superb refresher course in the US’s role in defeating the Nazis, Yimach Shmam vZicram, read the three volumes of Rick Atkinson’s “The Liberation Trilogy.”

  5. In the yeshiva where I work, if a student is pulled out of school because the parents want to take a three day weekend somewhere, the student (or parents) are not in any way looked down upon. If he misses the half day, there usually isn’t so much work to make up.

    However, many parents in our school make an effort to return from a mini-trip even late motzei Shabbos so that their son can attend school on Sunday, not because they’re afraid of what the hanhala might say, but because they value the fact that yeshivas aren’t closed, and their son can learn. It’s a shame parents look at it the opposite…it creates a real “us vs. them” attitude.

  6. It would be helpful for the Yeshivos to be a lot more considerate of working parents in designing their schedules. Half days and administrative days and last minute schedule changes are a real pain for working parents.

    I can understand that for many reasons the Yeshivos refuse to close on December 25 or January 1. However, Memorial Day and Veterans Day observance have nothing to do with any religion; they are totally secular.

    This unfortunately is only a part of the larger issue of the Yeshivos Hanhala (administration) being receptive (or sadly not) to legitimate parent concerns.

  7. I think it disrespectful to stay open when the government has designated the day as a day of rememberance for our fallen soldiers and as such businesses and schools are closed, but we can’t be bothered. It is not like Jewish schools don’t close for all kinds of arbitrary administrative days and breaks that don’t coincide with any holiday either Jewish or secular. Why can’t my kid be off when I am off so our family can spend time together?
    Kids and adults need some time off that isn’t Shabbat or Yom Tov and the only time that a lot of Jewish schools give it is times parents are working.

  8. That’s EXACTLY why they should stay open! We’re free to learn Torah openly instead of hiding in the attic, all due to the brave soldiers, and to show we’re thankful, we should CLOSE our yeshivas, like the Russians and others did?!?

  9. How about showing Hakaros HaTov by convincing our Orthodox Jewish schools to close on Memorial day instead of having a Sunday schedule (or in some cases a regular day.)
    For those that say it is bitul Torah, they can take the time to learn that day if they wish; the are free to do so.
    And part of the reason they are free is due to the brave soldiers who gave their lives in order for this to be one of the safest and most tolerant places for observant Jewss to live in history.

  10. To Tzirelchana #14: I think you make some excellent points in your comment, but also please consider some other important facts. There were a great many people in the U.S.A. in 1941 who were pressuring the United States to either remain neutral in World War II or to actually join with Germany in wiping out the Soviet Union and Communism. The full extent of the Nazis’ evil was not yet known. The fact that the United States made the right choice to enter the war and send the greatest army in history against Hitler was a true miracle. Also, in late 1973, against the advice of the State Department, American President Richard M. Nixon ordered that critical military supplies be sent immediately to Israel which was facing certain defeat in the Yom Kippur War. Although it won him no Jewish votes, this action saved Medinat Yisroel.

  11. It is important to realize that those Americans who respect that military and understand that freedom is not free, but hard-fought and hard-won, are those who will be most supportive of Israel needing to defend herself against her enemies. Nowadays Israel’s biggest haters align with the extreme left-wing European pacifist crowd that hates soldiers and thinks peace comes from flowers not bullets. The town of Sderot was hit by over 5000 missiles before Israel’s incursion into Gaza. Those who agree with the idea of self-defense nodded when Israelis pointed out, “What if 5000 missiles were hitting towns in Texas from across the border? Wouldn’t you send troops into Mexico?”

    G-d only help Israel get over the newest international crisis, just announced today: the boarding of the international flotilla headed for Gaza (let’s hope they discover missiles and ammunition aboard this supposedly peaceful shipment, and that none of the internationally known dignitaries aboard was severely injured). Once again Israel gets condemned in a double standard not applied against any other country.

  12. maybe if more Jews flew the flag, and not just in post 9.11 situations (HaShem preserve us from any more) these groups would be less anti-semitic???
    I think that many of the hardhats were anti-Semites before they started flying the flag.

    In WWII, Jews enlisted to fight for this country, but unfortunately while in service many were subjected to personal anti-Semitic insults, or taunts about America being dragged into the “Jews’ war.”

    We often don’t have to scratch very deeply to find the inner anti-Semite in people who go on tirades against the enemy of the day. Many of the same people who were gung ho against Hitler were barely disturbed by what he was doing to the Jews.

  13. “This is the truest sign of galus”

    …or of insufficient publicity here.

  14. With all due respect, while it is important to have hakaras hatov for the countries hosting Jews in galus and to remember the soldiers, I find it incredibly saddening that this same respect and memorial isn’t upheld by all Jews when Israel’s memorial day comes around. How can the same Jews who remember thank America for being a free country ignore and fail to remember their OWN fellow brothers’ and sisters’ messirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) for their OWN land, Eretz Yisrael. This is the truest sign of galus.

  15. citing its annexation by the hardhats of the 60’s and 70’s, many of whom were anti-Semites.

    maybe if more Jews flew the flag, and not just in post 9.11 situations (HaShem preserve us from any more) these groups would be less anti-semitic???

  16. My tzedakah list includes Jewish War Veterans, for their service to vets and to Jews who are currently serving, and the USO, which makes life easier for all who serve.

  17. Our Shul sent a number of packages with food, etc., to American military units fighting in Iraq and received many sincere thank-yous.

    Today, we can support the “cream of the crop” that defend us while taking exception to the thieves in Washington and their policies.

  18. Easy way to show appreciation.Go to one of the many parades and just clap as the vets walk by (works on veterans day too) the kids love to wave at our heros and the vets seem to really appreciate it too. It is also nice for them to see people with kippahs supporting them.

  19. Rabbi Moshe Feinstien of blessed memory called the USA a “malchut shel chesed,” literally: “a kingdom of kindness.”

  20. My father, A”H, was a WWII vet who lost a brother in that war. He had another brother and some nephews who served in WWII, along with an older brother who fought for the US in WWI. My father didn’t fly the flag at our home, citing its annexation by the hardhats of the 60’s and 70’s, many of whom were anti-Semites.

    I fly the flag on many days of the year in honor of our country, the service men and women who made it back, and those who did not.

    Last year, Michael Oren was quoted in the Jewish Week as saying Americans (in general) perceive our soldiers of today as “faceless kids from Oklahoma,” while Israelis have a much more intimate relationship with their soldiers. A sad fact is that many Jews in the States can name individual Israeli MIA’s, while we don’t even know what American units from our home states are serving in combat. We should change that. Here you will see the original article (Oren’s quote is about 2/3 of the way through the article) and my response to it.

    May we learn the lessons of Tisha B’Av, Yom HaZikaron and Memorial Day so that we may always reap the rewards of Pesach, Yom HaAtzma’ut and the 4th of July.

  21. Tzirelchana, you make a good point. The balance, of course, is that Hashem has us show gratitude even to places and figures who we think of as largely antagonistic, when there was a period that we benefitted from them.

    As for the US, the amount of good it has done worldwide far outweighs, IMO, the negative. That isn’t to ignore the negative; but we have to still appreciate the good.

    What’s more, Memorial Day isn’t necessarily about the US as an institution. Memorial Day is about men and women who literally sacrificed themselves for the greater good of a civil society in the world; or at least the greatest approximation of such. How could we not be respectful and grateful to them and their families? In my opinion, that’s simple derech eretz-common decency.

    Please folks, don’t forget the living veterans who pay a daily and hourly price for their protection of civil society. I treat them in the ER every week. The walking dead you see out there, homeless, drunk, on drugs are often veterans who started unknowingly self-medicating themselves to escape the effects of the psychological trauma they suffer. We disdain them, yet ignore at our moral peril where they’re really coming from and how they got that way, and how much we really owe them, too.

  22. While your facts are hardly debatable it’s all relative.

    Can you mention another country currently or at anytime in the history of our diaspora, that has been MORE philisemitic pro-Israel than the USA?

    But the attitude that you express answers why I am the only Jew in my 95% Jewish neighborhood flying a flag.

  23. I hear, of course Jews must respect the US adn any other govt except a blatantly oppressive one and that includes paying taxes (something our community tends to be very casual about),but take this patriotic bromide with a big grain of salt. Don’t forget that the US failed to lift a finger when the Jews of Europe were burning in the gas chambers and ditto for the last couple of Israeli wars when the Hizbollah and Hamas were trying to bomb the hell out of US and the US didn’t do diddly squat.

  24. I think that one of the great lessons to be learned from the veterans is that just as democracy must be bravely fought for and defended so too freedom must be earned. Many people today seem to think that freedom is just a synonym for license and irresponsibility.

    Maybe someone should write a post on the Torah definition of freedom as it is central to everything (exodous from Egypt et al)

  25. “Right after 9-11 and without poetic exaggeration, Flatbush and Boro Park was very decked out in Red, White and Blue.”

    Halevi their counterparts here in Israel should be as thoughtful and sensitive on our memorial day.

  26. Let’s not forget the brave G.I.s of WW II who speeded the end of the war , the Holocaust and liberated some of the camps. More could have been saved without state dep. interference but let’s not go there.

  27. Right after 9-11 and without poetic exaggeration, Flatbush and Boro Park was very decked out in Red, White and Blue.

    Many Gedolim, Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, and Rav Moshe Feinstein especially, referred to America as a Malchus Shel Chesed.

  28. I recall reading of Rav Avigdor Miller z”l flying the American flag at his home. I don’t recall if it was on July 4th, Memorial (formerly called Decoration) day, Veteran’s (formerly called Armistice) day, all of the above, or some other combination.

  29. SephardiLady,

    When you have that personal connection, your perspective certainly changes. We’re no longer talking faceless names. We’re talking real people with families and rich, full lives. Makes the sacrifice all the more great.

  30. This year, Memorial Day has personal tangible personal meaning to me. A number of my high school classmates have been on tour of duty in Iraq, and one very driven classmate who dreamed of serving in the Armed Forces gave his life for this country one year ago in an elite Special Forces Unit. A (non-Jewish)classmate wrote on website put up by the school dedicated in his honor, that if you are remembered for your life, you never die. There is certainly a similiar concept in the Torah world, and it certainly seems important to take time out to remember those who have ensured our freedom through the ultimate sacrifice. Having a neighbor and classmate to remember definitely helps makes the day more meaningful.

  31. When I was a kid on Staten Island (1950’s, early 1960’s) there was a massive Memorial Day Parade every year including every imaginable band and organization, including the Jewish War Veterans. Since then, it changed location (now going directly through my old neighborhood, West Brighton), but is still a big deal. Whoever has a flag hangs it in front of the house. In fact, I visited the neighborhood last summer and many flags were out on an ordinary weekday. A number of local intersections had been renamed after firemen who died on duty on 9/11/2001.

    But today we live in the Midwest and, oddly, we had the only US flag out on our block today. This is hard to explain!

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