, , , , ,

Tonight begins Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. As soon as nightfall comes tomorrow, Israel will begin Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Independence Day.

This intentional convergence of two extremes is emblematic of Israel. It is a nation of contradictions; both peace loving and militantly assertive, deeply religious and equally deeply secular. Not unexpectedly, there are clashes.

I am in no position to comment on Israeli politics and the deep political divides that seem to grow every day. To me, Israel is both unique and entirely normal. It is, as Winston Churchill once said of Russia, “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key.”

The key, I believe, is an unwavering devotion to the Jewish people. We may manifest it in different ways, but it is the undying love for the Children of Israel, those stiffnecked folk who tested the patience of both God and Moses for 40 years in the desert.

As one who has served as a congregational rabbi, I know how readily Jews test their leaders. We can be a rowdy bunch, never failing to speak our minds, sometimes at the top of our lungs.

And I also know how heartfelt and sincere these expressions are, how they come from a place of caring, of hope. We are a people who can live in the moment and still call upon our past for strength and sustenance. We can live fully today and still look to a future that will be brighter.

Today I stood before a Catholic Cathedral that has the Jewish unpronounceable name of God etched in Hebrew above the doorway. It was placed there by Conversos, crypto-Jews who hid their religion as they fled the Spanish Inquisition and found themselves in this strange new world which is now the American Southwest. Even as they helped build the churches in which they would pray as Catholics, they remembered and honored their heritage.

May we be blessed to continue honoring those who went before us, and to continue making the world a better place for those who follow.

The name of God, etched in Hebrew above the doors of St Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico.