Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, May 30, 2021
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun30 May 202119th of Sivan, 5781
Nu 13:1-20 Jer 29 Dan 5 (Mk 12) 1 Co 11
Lest We Forget by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: “Lest we forget” is an oft-quoted phrase, including a Rudyard Kipling quote: “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget– lest we forget!” We Believers have much to hold fast in memory, including freedom and the men and women who secured that freedom for us.
I had intended to continue today a discussion of Messiah’s worship communities, as recorded in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, but the calendar intervened. I will detour this Sunday by discussing a national holiday, Memorial Day, which will be observed tomorrow, May 31.
HISTORY OF AMERICA’S MEMORIAL DAY: Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is an American holiday now set aside on the last Monday in May to honor and mourn the military personnel who have died in the performance of their military duties while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Two other days are set aside to honor our military– Armed Forces Day, to recognize men and women currently serving in military uniform (not an official federal holiday, observed earlier in May) and Veterans Day (always observed on November 11), honoring all who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
This day– as Decoration Day, later as Confederate Memorial Day– started in the South toward the close of the Civil War. Southern women decorated the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers with flowers and used the occasion to tend to any disrepair of cemeteries. The idea later took root in the North. Still later, it became a national holiday.
ESTIMATE OF AMERICA’S WAR DEAD: More than 1.1-million American men and women have died in military combat.
Deaths of Americans in major wars we have fought include:* **
● American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) – 4,435 deaths
● War of 1812 (1812-1814) – 2,260 deaths
● Mexican War (1846-1848) – 13,283 deaths
● Civil War (1861-1865) – 618,000 deaths***
● Spanish-American War (1898) – 2,446 deaths
● World War I (1917-1918) – 116,516 deaths
● World War II (1941 -1945) – 405,399 deaths
● Korean War (1950 – 1953) – 36,574 deaths
● Vietnam War (1955, 1964-1975) – 58,220 deaths
● Gulf War (1990-1991) – 383 deaths
● Iraq/ Afghanistan War (2001 – present) – 6,773 deaths
* War dead are estimates. There may be some under-counting. For example, a wounded soldier may return live from the theater of war, only to die later from his/ her injuries.
** Some authors include other war dead, such as, casualties of Indian wars and war by terrorists (the 9/11 attacks on the Trade Center Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the downed airliner in Pennsylvania).
*** Civil War casualties include both Federal (North) and Confederate (South) soldiers. Some authors estimate the total Civil War casualties as high as 750,000.
With regard to American casualties, the deadliest battles have been:
● In the Civil War, more than 7,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the Battle of Gettysburg; and
● In World War I, more than 26,000 American soldiers died in the Battle of Argonne Forest (record losses of American military personnel in all wars).
MEMORABLE MEMORIAL DAY SPEECHES: Memorial Day is a day which attracts many politicians to display their patriotism and oratorical skills. Five memorable Memorial Day speeches include (https://www.christianpost.com/news/5-memorable-memorial-day-speeches-in-american-history.html):
● Ronald Reagan (President, at Arlington National Cemetery, 1982): “Earlier today, with the music that we have heard and that of our National Anthem– I can’t claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don’t know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: ‘Does that flag still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?’ That is what we must all ask.”
● Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Civil War veteran and future Supreme Court justice, at Keene, NH, 1884): “So to the indifferent inquirer who asks “why Memorial Day is still kept up” we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly…. But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death– of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”
● Calvin Coolidge (then, vice president, shortly before becoming President at the death of Warren G. Harding, Northampton, MA, 1923): Coolidge, often a civic educator, stressed the importance of American ideals and sacrifice in his remarks. He called war “not the worst of evils.” He honored America’s fallen and Memorial Day by saying we set the day apart “to do honor to all those, now gone, who made the cause of America their supreme choice.” Coolidge quoted John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
● James A. Garfield (Civil War veteran; then, Ohio Congressman; from first Memorial Day address at inauguration of Arlington National Cemetery, 1868): “I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion…. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung.”
● Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (see previous notation, to graduating class, Harvard University, 1895; a simple statement): “The man who commands attention of his fellows is the man of wealth.”
THE COST OF AMERICA’S VIGILANCE– ”JUST ENOUGH GROUND TO BURY OUR WAR DEAD:” In defending the liberty of nations around the world, the United States has lost the lives of many young men and women, and has spent much of our national wealth. We have become the policemen of the world. Yet, America is hated by many nations for our “militaristic” activities. These “militaristic” activities are the reasons that swastikas do not fly over Paris, why there are still Jews to live in Europe, and why we are not all part of the Third Reich.
When then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke in Switzerland in 2003, the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, asked Powell whether the U.S. was relying too much on “hard power” (military action), as opposed to “soft power” (appealing to the common values of the major religions and building trust based on those values).
Powell responded by affirming the values of “soft power,” but added it was the “hard power” of the military that, for example, helped free Europe so that the “soft power” of peace and reconstruction could take place. Powell then said, “We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek… our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.”
SIDELIGHT: The United States has often been denounced for dropping atomic bombs on Japan in August, 1945. It is estimated that approximately 140,000 of Hiroshima’s population and approximately 74,000 of Nagasaki’s population died in the two bombings. As horrendous as this number may seem, millions of lives were saved, had the American military attacked Japan in a traditional invasion. It is estimated that the nuclear attacks saved up to 500,000 American military personnel lives and millions of Japanese civilian lives. (Japanese civilians would have fought to death to protect their emperor.) Anti-war protesters again get it wrong. END sidelight.
All of us want peace. I believe we will not have peace until the Prince of Peace, Yeshua HaMashiach, returns to defeat war and evil at the Battle of Armageddon. That Battle may not be too far in the future. Bo, Yeshua, Bo! Until Yeshua’s return, it is appropriate that we fight for peace and honor the men and women who sacrifice lives and limbs for that peace.
Perhaps, Abraham Lincoln said it best in his November 19, 1863 “Gettysburg Address,” excerpts of which follow: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live…. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate– we can not consecrate– we can not hallow– this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract…. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us– that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion– that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain– that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom– and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
SIDELIGHT: I admire Scottish and Irish music. To me, one of the most beautiful war ballads ever written is the “Green Fields of France.” This ballad tells the story of a man who visits one of France’s World War I cemeteries. Stopping to rest by the grave of a long-forgotten soldier, Willie McBride, he ponders who Willie was and how he may have been missed by family and friends. It is a powerful ballad, well worth your time to listen. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofhao4SHXGo .
I hope you think that every war casualty is a “Willie McBride,” whose young life has been ended by man’s stupidity. We tend to think of every “Willie McBride” as only a statistic, but every “Willie” had parents, possibly a future spouse and children waiting at home for a glorious reunion, and many friends and relatives who were deeply saddened by the death of this “statistic”on a foreign battlefield. On this Memorial Day, I urge you to think about at least one “Willie McBride.” Unless you have a relative for whom you can mourn, mourn for “Willie McBride,” after hearing the “Green Fields of France” ballad. If you do not listen to a performance of the ballad, you may read the lyrics at: https://www.lyrics.com/lyric-lf/1438909/The+Fureys+%26+Davey+Arthur/The+Green+Fields+Of+France . END sidelight.
LEST WE FORGET: We have lost all of our World War I veterans, and the number of living World War II veterans becomes fewer with every passing day.
Memorial Day is a national day of observance to mourn the loss of our war dead, to remember the lives of our young men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us, and to thank God for the land of liberty in which we live.
If you have a friend or relative who is a veteran, I suggest that you call and thank him/ her for his/ her service to our country. “Thank you for your service” means so much for a military veteran. You enjoy freedom today– your family enjoys freedom today– because men and women like your friend or relative sacrificed for us.
If you know someone on active duty, I suggest you contact this person by mail, email, or telephone call, and tell him/ her how thankful you are that he/ she is standing in your place to protect your freedom. He/ she and many like him/ her prepare to fight daily– and are willing to die– in order that you and your family may remain free.
We Americans have lost the knowledge of what it means to be a free people. We Americans have lost the will to fight for freedom. We Americans do not deserve the many freedoms we enjoy. We Americans are like uber-rich kids given far too much by indulgent parents, who end up being shiftless, drug-addicted, spoiled, unhappy adults, adults who appreciate nothing in life and who do not realize how fortunate they are.
As long as you live, if you see a young man or woman in military uniform, I suggest that you make a point of thanking him/ her for his/ her service to our country. Many Americans belittle, curse, or symbolically spit upon the heroes who protect America. The uniformed man/ woman you thank may be too modest to say much back to you, but I assure you that he/ she will be emotionally overwhelmed with thanksgiving that you have taken the time to thank him/ her for protecting you and your family.
By the way, I also suggest you express thanks to law-enforcement officers, when you see them. There are a few “bad apples” in law-enforcement ranks, but we have civil, orderly communities because of their efforts. How will we continue to recruit law-enforcement officers, when we under-pay them for the dangerous work we expect of them? (What salary would you want, if you knew you could be assassinated tomorrow?) What idiot started the “defund the police” movement? Does anyone seriously believe America could exist, if we no longer have police protection? Does anyone seriously believe that we can replace police officers with social workers? These idiotic suggestions are part of the master plan to destroy America and replace our nation’s constitutional republican government with socialism, communism, or something else. Our civil communities persist only because of the thin blue line which protects us.
SIDELIGHT: I make a suggestion to Rabbi Weiner. He can delete this paragraph with a single keystroke. I suggest that Shomair Yisrael compile a list of relatives and friends of members who are serving in the military (especially billeted in a foreign land). Each week, interested Shomair members can send a note or birthday card, thanking the service man/ woman for his/ her service to our nation, assuring him/ her that we pray for him/ her, and assuring him/ her of Yeshua’s love. It would cost each participating member a few dollars in postage stamps each year, but the satisfaction of participating in this project would be worth far more. END sidelight.
Rabbi’s note: Rabbi Weiner (that’s me) approves of such a worthy endeavor. All that’s missing is a “champion” for this cause. We need someone who will spearhead the effort. While I endorse the idea, I refuse to take on the responsibility. Who will? Contact me. End RN.
Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.