4.23.2007

Yom HaZikaron

I don't have much to say, but I wanted to share this with my readers in honor of Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day.

"A state is not given to a people on a silver platter."
--Dr. Chaim Weitzman, 1948

The Silver Platter

by Nathan Alterman

Translated from the Hebrew by David P. Stern

And the land will grow still
Crimson skies dimming, misting
Slowly paling again
Over smoking frontiers

As the nation stands up
Torn at heart but existing
To receive its first wonder
In two thousand years

As the moment draws near
It will rise, darkness facing
Stand straight in the moonlight
In terror and joy

When across from it step out
Towards it slowly pacing
In plain sight of all
A young girl and a boy

Dressed in battle gear, dirty
Shoes heavy with grime
On the path they will climb up
While their lips remain sealed

To change garb, to wipe brow
They have not yet found time
Still bone weary from days
And from nights in the field

Full of endless fatigue
And all drained of emotion
Yet the dew of their youth
Is still seen on their head

Thus like statues they stand
Stiff and still with no motion
And no sign that will show
If they live or are dead

Then a nation in tears
And amazed at this matter
Will ask: who are you?
And the two will then say

With soft voice: We--
Are the silver platter
On which the Jews' state
Was presented today

Then they fall back in darkness
As the dazed nation looks
And the rest can be found
In the history books.

מגש הכסף
מילים: נתן אלתרמן

...והארץ תשקוט עין שמיים אודמת
תעמעם לאיטה על גבולות עשנים
ואומה תעמוד קרועת לב אך נושמת...
לקבל את הנס האחד אין שני

היא לטקס תיכון היא תקום למול סהר
ועמדה למולם עוטה חג ואימה
אז מנגד ייצאו נער ונערה
ואט אט ייצעדו הם אל מול האומה

לובשי חול וחגור כבדי נעליים
בנתיב יצעדו הם הלוך והחרש
לא החליפו בגדם לא מחו עוד במים
את עקבות יום הפרך וליל קו האש

עייפים עד בלי קץ נזירים ממרגוע
ונוטפים טללי נעורים עבריים
דום השניים ייגשו ועמדו לבלי נוע
ואין אות אם חיים הם או ירויים

אז תשאל האומה שטופת דמע וקסם
ואמרה: מי אתם מי אתם
והשניים שוקטים יענו לה: אנחנו מגש הכסף
שעליו לך ניתנה מדינת היהודים

כך אמרו ונפלו לרגלה עוטי צל
והשאר יסופר בתולדות ישראל
[hat tip to My Obiter Dicta for the Hebrew text]

* * * * * *

On second thought, maybe I do have something else to say. In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Brachot (5a), it says:

It has been taught: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai says: "Three good gifts were given by God to Israel, all of them acquired through trial and pain. They are: The Torah, The Land of Israel, and the world to come."
תניא רבי שמעון בן יוחאי אומר: "שלש מתנות טובות נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל וכולן לא נתנן אלא ע"י יסורין אלו הן תורה וארץ ישראל והעולם הבא

What does it mean for me, or for American/Diaspora Jewry as a whole, that the State of Israel has been acquired through trial and pain, but not my own?

What sorts of "trial and pain" was Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai thinking of? He lived in what is now Israel after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, after the end of Jewish autonomy in the Land of Israel (which would not return for almost 2000 years, and the return of which we celebrate later tonight and tomorrow). He got in trouble for criticizing the ruling Roman government of his time, and was forced to hide in a cave with his son for many years. Were those the sorts of trials and tribulations that he said were necessary to acquire the land of Israel?

What would he have thought of the sorts of trials and tribulations undertaken by the State of Israel and her soldiers today in order to acquire or hold onto the land of Israel?

I don't have answers today, just questions.

4 comments:

BZ said...

One of the tackier things I saw in Israel was a brand of disposable aluminum pans called מגש הכסף.

ALG said...

That's terrible!

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i remember learning that poem in high school, it's still very moving.

Dave (Balashon) said...

On the Efrat email list a few years back, someone posted the following story by Rav Riskin:

------
When all else failed, there was a custom amongst Chasidim, to ask their
Rebbe to pray for them. After five years of barrenness a Chasid and his wife
decide to ask the Rebbe to intercede with God on their behalf.
"Rebbe, they pleaded, "We can't have children. Will you pray for us?"
"Yes, I will pray for you. Within a year you will have a child"
However at the end of the year there was no child.
The couple did not give up and persistently asked the Rebbe to pray for
them.
Always the Rebbe's reply was the same "Within a year you will have a child"
Yet there was no child.
A year, then two, and then three and still no baby.

Sadly enough there was another couple who had the same problem.
Finally they too decided to ask the Rebbe.
Once again his reply was "Within a year you will have a child"
At the end of the year the second couple walked into the study hall pushing
a stroller.
"Mazal tov we had a baby girl," they shouted with excitement

The first couple was overjoyed for the other couple but confused why their
request was turned down.
They approached the Rebbe and tearfully poured out their heart,
"Rebbe it is not fair we have been asking for so long and they, just a year
ago and already they have a beautiful baby. Rebbe why, why?
The Rebbe with the up most compassion leaned forward and whispered
"The difference is, when I told them that within the year they would have a
baby they went out and bought a baby carriage."


The Jewish people for two thousand years have been asking God,
"God, can you please give us a new state?"
Every time God said, "Yes within a year you will have a new state."
Yet it was only at the beginning of the 20 Th century did the Jews finally
decide to go out and buy a baby carriage.
------

Who knew the cost of the carriage...