In the past year, 140 IDF soldiers died in defense of the State of Israel. Since 1860, the year Jews settled outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, 24,068 servicemen and women fell in defense of the Yishuv, the community of Jews in the Land of Israel.
We write these lines during Yom HaZikaron leChalalei Tzahal (IDF Memorial Day), when we evoke the memory of those thousands of men and women – overwhelmingly young people – who sacrificed their lives so that our People has a homeland, a refuge, a place on the globe – as Hatikvah, our National anthem, says: Eretz Tzion v’Yerushalaim; a space in the same world where barely 60 years ago, our right to life was denied in the Shoah that devastated 1 in 3 Jews alive before 1939 – 6,000,000 souls.
We are deeply thankful and infinitely fortunate to live in this glorious period of the history of the Jewish People, despite the terrible cost for all-too-many families in the small Jewish State, bereaved by war of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers who offered their lives for the common good. To express our gratitude for our State in prayer, those who see the establishment of the State of Israel as an important – even miraculous – fact, include the Halel in their Yom Ha’atzmaut prayers – Israel Independence Day prayers. Halel is a set of psalms of praise, request and gratitude to God. Our Sages teach us in the Talmud that the Halel was instituted to celebrate situations of national redemption and liberation from cruel persecution and dangers. Salvation that invites recitation of the Halel must have the character of an evident miracle – nes nigle in Hebrew – and should include Klal Yisrael, the whole Jewish People, all components that Maccabi members recognize in the foundation of the State of Israel, its survival against all odds, and its victories in 5 wars over 74 years of modern history.
We also blow the Shofar in Yom Ha’atzmaut. Of the 10 reasons for blowing the Shofar enumerated by Saadia Gaon in the 10th Century, one is most significant and appropriate for using the R