A man doesn’t have time in his life to have time for everything. He doesn’t have seasons enough to have a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes was wrong about that. A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment, to laugh and cry with the same eyes, with the same hands to throw stones and gather them, to make love in war and war in love.
-Yehuda Amichai (Israeli Poet)
This coming week, as we enter the new month of Iyar, we will observe Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Day of Remembrance for Fallen Soldiers, then move directly into a celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut. As I think back to the springs I spent in Israel, the stark transition between the two days sticks out in my mind. I remember wearing white on Yom HaZikaron, standing still as a siren sounded across the country and crying for those who lost their lives to protect the State of Israel, now on the cusp of her 67th birthday. I remember the day after, the smell of barbecue wafting through the streets, outdoor concerts and Jerusalem’s parks packed with picnics. I always found it jarring to move so quickly from sitting with loss to reveling in possibility.
Today, my teacher, Rabbi Annie Tucker, shared the Yehuda Amichai verses above with her congregation as part of a beautiful message about how our history and tradition teach us to hold multiple emotions at once. Rabbi Tucker wrote:
“Indeed, the Jewish people have long understood that it is possible to grieve and to celebrate at the same time. Just a few weeks ago we mixed bitter
maror with sweet haroset and dipped fresh sprigs of parsley into salty, tear-filled pools to symbolize the poignant melange of suffering and deliverance that is at the heart of the Exodus. We break a glass at weddings to remember in the midst of intense joy our people’s deepest despair. And each year we make the incongruous move from Yom HaZikaron one night to Yom HaAtzmaut the very next, following deep mourning for those who lost their life with joyful celebration of all their keen sacrifice has helped to protect.”
When we mourn, our joy is not forgotten, and as we dance, our brokenness is still part of our being. This is something we can hold in in mind not just on these two days, but year-round as we wrestle with the complexities of the struggles of Israelis, Palestinians and all who live in the land. This week, as our hearts turn East, may we support one another in our mourning, in our dancing, in our moments of despair and in our undying hope for a future of peace.
Al Kol Eleh , Al Kol Eleh
Over all these, Over all these
God please watch over them for me,
Over the honey and the stinger
Over the bitter and the sweet
– Naomi Shemer (Israeli Singer)