Tazria-Metzora 5777 – The Victoria Cross
On Tuesday, I represented the Chief Rabbi at a special ceremony in central London honouring Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War. It was a moving and sobering experience.
One of the video clips from that time showed young people caught up in the 'excitement' of war. Much like youth and adolescents of any era, they were enamoured by the promise of adventure.
Four bruising and bloody years later, many of them were not to return. When they did, they were scarred - mentally and physically. They had given their all to achieve victory. A stark reminder that freedom is not free.
It may have been a terrible waste of life, but for these brave soldiers the future of this great country was too important. The citations and medals they received was testament to their tenacity and bravery.
This week, modern Israel celebrates its birthday. The day before is Yom Hazikaron, when Israel's brave fighters and defenders who fell in the cause for Israel are remembered. In Israel, it is a serious day. There are moments of silence, and thousands visit the many cemeteries where loved ones are interred. Loved ones for whom the safety of Israel and its citizens was of paramount importance.
For us, who have the luxury of travelling often to Israel, and enjoying its many attractions - especially its sacred cities and sites - we could be forgiven if we don't share this same sensitivity. After all, we don't live there. We don't put our lives on the line. But, seven decades after its modern founding, Israel is still at war. The miracle which is our beloved Homeland comes at a steep price.
The least we can do, here in the diaspora, is to show our support. This Monday evening, we will have our annual ceremony of remembrance - led by a group of Israeli youngsters. We must all be there. Everyone must make an effort. To show appreciation for our special country - and to its brave heroes who stand ready at all times to ensure its safety. Do it for them. Do it for yourself.
RABBI MENDEL LEW