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Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Thoughts

My kids asked me yesterday what Memorial Day commemorates, prompting a long discussion about the scores of American soldiers that have given up their lives for our freedom. But it was hard to explain to my son this morning why going to Yeshiva trumps getting a day off in their memory (especially when his sisters' school apparently doesn't fel that way). I explained to him that his Yeshiva feels, correctly so, that learning Torah in preparation for Shavuot, when we celebrate Matan Torah, trumps Memorial Day - at least for the morning half of the day.

Of course, this push-and-pull between American and Jewish values is part and parcel of life here, especially to people like myself and my husband, who actually care about the observance of certain American holidays, as compared to many Orthodox Jews, who make a point of brushing these holidays off, and refusing to even allow American holidays to rate. I'm not talking, of course, of out-and-out religious holidays like Christmas, New Years, etc. But I find it shows a lack of Hakarat HaTov to this wonderful country that we live in to refuse to even acknowledge, particularly in conversation with your children, that today, July 4th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, etc., commemorate people without whom we wouldn't have the freedom to live life as we do.

Here are my Memorial Day thoughts from last year, and here is a nice Memorial Day post from Chaim.

35 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I explained to him that his Yeshiva feels, correctly so, that learning Torah in preparation for Shavuot, when we celebrate Matan Torah, trumps Memorial Day"

Why would you explain it in a way that pits the two values against each other? Wouldnt it be far more diplomatic, and perhaps accurate to say that there is no reason why someone couldnt both learn torah and acknowledge and respect memorial day?

I dont know why you would want to instill in young children a resentment towards yeshivas. And although you may not think so, your anti yeshiva biases will all be picked up by your children.

Children hate yeshiva enough the way it is, knowing that their mom agrees will only strengthen their views.

10:16 AM  
Blogger MDmom said...

interesting that you bring up this point today. the school where my mother teaches just returned from their annual trip to washington dc where this year they skipped the visit to arlington national cemetary... why? apparently it's not done to go to cemetaries where non-jews are buried -- or something like that. i'm not talking about the issue of cohanim and the jewish soldiers who are buried there (when my class went on their annual trip the cohanim stayed on the bus). she and i felt it was so disrespectful especially in light of the trip's proximity to memorial day to not even visit the tomb of the unknown soldier! these soldiers fought and lost their lives for the freedoms that americans enjoy including freedom of religion (hello! when have we had it so good?) the ingratitude drives me crazy.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Om showing her anti-yeshiva bias? Where? All I see here is OM explaining to her son that he still has to respet American values, even if his Yeshiva priortizes learning 1st. Halevai there were enough people who even prioritize American values at all in the Orthodox world. Ill bet they don't even mention memorial day in my sons yeshiva.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos, Orthomom, for emphasizing the importance of American holidays to your kids. People who don't appreciate what veterans have done for our countrys freedon can move to Iran.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Orthomom:
Excellent post.
" I explained to him that his Yeshiva feels, correctly so, that learning Torah in preparation for Shavuot, when we celebrate Matan Torah, trumps Memorial Day - at least for the morning half of the day."

I'm afraid that you are being too diplomatic.Both Darchei and South Shore for example claim that they don't want to miss learning as the excuse for not giving off Memorial Day. I doubt that is the true reason-because if that is the case why do they stop school and learning in June before the public schools do.
The children lose more learning by days the schools are closed-non Yom Tov Chol Hamoed etc-than are saved by making them go to school on Memorial Day.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

especially to people like myself and my husband, who actually care about the observance of certain American holidays, as compared to many Orthodox Jews

According to the Rambam, goyim aren't allowed to make their own holidays. Maybe that's why Orthodox Jews aren't into observing the holiday. One can still appreciate America and not celebrate the goyishe holidays.

My wife and I are both military veterans and Orthodox Jews -- yet we don't feel like we have to celebrate with and like the goyim. We appreciate America's war dead everyday. In my extended family we've lost five in America's wars over the years -- I never stop thinking about their sacrifice.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Shifra said...

"According to the Rambam, goyim aren't allowed to make their own holidays. Maybe that's why Orthodox Jews aren't into observing the holiday. One can still appreciate America and not celebrate the goyishe holidays."

I'd like to see the source for that.
I'm pretty sure non-Jews can celebrate whatever and whenever they like - Perhaps some jewish people might not want to join them but it would take a lot of convince me that they are not "allowed" to celebrate or commemorate at will.

I do agree that we should respect and appreciate those who sacrifice/d for this country everyday but for those who don't Memorial Day serves as a good reminder to give credit and respect where it is due.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure non-Jews can celebrate whatever and whenever they like

Check out the Ramban's Hilchos Melachim.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous amused Rabbinical student said...

According to the Rambam, goyim aren't allowed to make their own holidays. Maybe that's why Orthodox Jews aren't into observing the holiday. One can still appreciate America and not celebrate the goyishe holidays.

Rambam is referring to religious holidays.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rambam is referring to religious holidays.

Memorial Day is observed with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery and by religious services, parades, and speeches nationwide.

Yep, totally secular.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous amused Rabbinical student said...


Memorial Day is observed with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery and by religious services, parades, and speeches nationwide.

Yep, totally secular.


How does laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier make memorial day religious?? And have YOU ever been to a memorial day ceremony?? I have. Many. They pledge allegiance, someone sings the Star-Spangled Banner, and then they play taps. Usually, elderly war veterans march or ride in open cars so they can be applauded for their selfless service by those along the parade route. You should try going to one.

1:09 PM  
Blogger FrumGirl said...

I think most people with regards to Memorial Day just view it as the weekend that starts summer. Im sure the average american doesnt really know what Memorial Day is commemorating, just like they dont know why July 4th is celebrated. I have read a study where they asked random people what is celebrate on Independence Day and majority did not know... go figure!

1:48 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Frumgirl:I think most people with regards to Memorial Day just view it as the weekend that starts summer. Im sure the average american doesnt really know what Memorial Day is commemorating,

I think that this is a very good point - if the day itself has devolved into one primarily set aside for barbeques and going to the beach, why should yeshivas be faulted for not giving off on this day?

This being the case, I believe that this state of affairs is quite sad. I heard on the radio this morning a suggestion that people observe a 30-second moment of silence at 3p today (I didn't hear who originated the idea), which would seem to be a step in the right direction. In reference to the topic at hand, it would be nice if the yeshivos would still have sessions (at least for limudei kodesh), but still make some mention of the day at some point, as a means of hakaras hatov.

2:12 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

just because a group decides to hold a religious service to commemorate a secular holiday does not make the holiday entirely or even partly religious. there are plenty of jews who are buried in military cemetaries too. it's an insult to them to ignore this day because someone not of our religion has decided to commemorate with a religious service. my ww2 vet grandfather is turning in his flag-draped coffin.

2:20 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

This year, Memorial Day has personal tangible personal meaning to me. A number of my high school classmates have been on tour of duty in Iraq, and one very driven classmate who dreamed of serving in the Armed Forces gave his life for this country one year ago in an elite Special Forces Unit.

I don't think we can thank the young men and women who have given their service to this county enough. It is certainly worthwhile to speak about these special young men and women to our children and help them understand how their service builds this great nation.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Chaim said...

OM - Thanks for the link.

General, I really don't see the harm in using this day to give some hakarat hatov to the soldiers who gave their lives over the years in this country. Whether directly related to saving our fathers, mothers or grandparents from the death camps and allow them to live here and continuing on their lives which in turn gave many of us life. Or whether we should just be thankful overall that these men and women died to protect the rights which this country gives us to practice our religion freely.

So whats wrong with showing a little appreciation?

If it bothers you so much, don't call it a holiday. It's not like any of the frum communities take any time to ever thank anyone in this country on any day, let alone a day set aside for being thankful.

This is the same argument we always have when Thanksgiving comes around. Chas V'sholom you could be thankful. I know, we're "always" thankful. As if we are so much better human beings that we remember to be so thankful every day. Why do we need a day like Yom Kippur then? We should be that holy every day, we shouldn't need a special day, if we acted like angels every day, it wouldn't matter that Hashem judges us that particular day.

Come on people, all it takes is a second to just think about what these people have died for, to protect us.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why on earth would you stop learning to "celebrate" memorial day by having barbeques, watching baseball games, and running to the nearest pool?

if you meant to say that it's a shame the school's dont have a special program after regular learning explaining the incredible hakaras hatov we must have toward this country and those who fought and died to protect it then i wholeheartedly agree.

that yeshivas dont do that bothers me, but it bothers me just as much that anyone would suggest that the study of torah should cease for an american holiday.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

"I'm not talking, of course, of out-and-out religious holidays like Christmas, New Years, etc."

I'm not sure how New Year's Day qualifies as religious. I can see not observing it because Rosh HaShanah has greater importance than the start of the civil year, but to not observe it because it's considered a religious holiday? That seems odd to me.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"that yeshivas dont do that bothers me, but it bothers me just as much that anyone would suggest that the study of torah should cease for an american holiday"

Then why should learning of Torah cease for Chanukah? for chol Hamoed? for summers-even before the Public schools close, Fridays in May and June7 hours before lickbenchin-in the winters the same time period would not permit any school?
No the issue is not the time spent learning-it is saying we are not part of the American community.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

OM I'm not talking, of course, of out-and-out religious holidays like Christmas, New Years, etc.

I missed this line until Drew pointed it out. I've also heard it referred to as a non-Jewish holiday (yom ha-milah and such), but in one of R' Moshe Feinstein's teshuvos about Thanksgiving (I forget which, sorry), he refers to New Year's Day in the same breath as Thanksgiving in the sense of not being out-and-out problematic, so there's at least one big name who holds that NYD is not on the same level as Christmas.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

" non-Jewish holiday (yom ha-milah and such), "
There is no doubt that Jan1-started as a non jewish holiday-but not clear-New Years didn't always begin Jan 1-even so-there are clearly customs that many frum Jews do that start in non Jewish sources-starters-Tashlich, bonfires in Lag Bomer, vegetation in schul Shavuot, stained glass windows in many schuls etc.

I actually am in favor of school Jan 1-but for a whole day-none of this 9-12 meshugas.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't think it's a bad idea, and i think it wouldn't hurt them to go visit jews in military cemetaries.

i mean really.

(and btw if i'm not mistaken the current way of celebrating mamorial day is the south's fault. the south refused to observe mamorial day at first because it primarily commemorated the soldiers who died in the norths war against them.

later however, when congress pegged memorial day as a three day holiday in the 70's the south decided to give it off to, not as a serious day but as a frivilous day. probably for the same reason. this then spread to the north. in earlier times mamorial day here was celebrated much as in isreal.)
(and this is comming from an ardent southerner)

4:59 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

that yeshivas dont do that bothers me, but it bothers me just as much that anyone would suggest that the study of torah should cease for an american holiday"

The thing that I think frustrates many people is not that Torah learning continues (ch"v), but that children are not home with their parents on one of the few days that both parents are home and available to do things with their children that would enrich family life.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous SITTINGBULL said...

ME SO GLAD WHITE MAN COME HERE. ME REMEMBER LOOSING MY TEEPEE.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mycroft: sorry, i have no idea what you are talking about and maybe you didnt understand what i wrote. i believe chanukah and chol hamoed are jewish, not american, holidays. you're citing those as examples only proves my point. is that what you were trying to do?

sephardilady: i understand and appreciate that point. however it has absolutely nothing to do with OM's point. hers is about appreciation of america, not about free time with family.

(again, i think you have a valid pt. but relates to a different discussion and is for a different day. (or a different post at least ;)).

1:19 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"sorry, i have no idea what you are talking about and maybe you didnt understand what i wrote. i believe chanukah and chol hamoed are jewish, not american, holidays."
There is no issur to learn on those days-some Yeshivas/day schools are closed on those days-Not All. In my time I went to school on Chol Hamoed Succot. I even heard from Rabbi Cohen A"H the late former principal of Maimonides in the Boston area that they even were open one year on Chol Hamoed Pesach-but there was just too much practical problems with food. Given the spirtitual leadership of Maimonides then to me it would certainly be muttar to be open. Whatis more Yomtovic to learn about the Yom Tov have minyanim in school eat meals in the Succah-or go to Great Adventure?

1:47 AM  
Blogger joel rich said...

Some of this debate seems centered on the question of yachid vs. tzibbur. Even if as individuals we are thankful all year long, the fact that the tzibbur has set aside these days makes a psychological and perhaps meta-halachik difference. By not participating in the communal hoddah one is making a statement of their relationship to the tzibbur. Whether this is a positive or negative statement is a separate issue. Personally I find it negative (BTW I would have no problem having school that day and taking the kids for part of the day to a local veterans parade etc.)
KT

5:43 AM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

ortho,
firstly martin luther day is not even close to being in the same sentence. i work at a major company and we are always open and so are a lot of other non jewish companies.
most yeshivas that are open dont have english, and the only disrespect given is for the torah by allowing pure neshamos to take the day off.
i had two uncles fighting in wwII yes they were both frum and yes they both survived. and both would agree you dont stop learning for this day. you can still go to yeshiva and have repect for someone.
how is spending the day at the beach, shopping, blasting loud music better than going to yeshiva. ithink it is the yeshivas that are doing it right.

10:22 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Um, "rebba"? What part of my phrase "rightly so" did you not comprehend? I think you need to read more carefully.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Not sure why learning Torah and memoralizing those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy are two mutually exclusive notions. Why not have Yeshiva and learn Torah in memory of those heroic soldiers.

Hakaras HaTov is a Torah concept, isn't it?

11:46 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Michael said...

Not sure why learning Torah and memoralizing those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy are two mutually exclusive notions. Why not have Yeshiva and learn Torah in memory of those heroic soldiers.

Hakaras HaTov is a Torah concept, isn't it?


Absolutely agree. Which was my point here.

12:00 PM  
Blogger LkwdGuy said...

My daughter learned about Memorial day in school, and it was presented as an issue of hakaras hatov. She is in Pre 1-A so I'm not sure how much they went into it but she came home from school on Friday telling me about the day that sounds like memory to remember all the soldiers who died.

12:23 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I think that an event like Michael's would be very satisfactory. It is so important that we give hakarat hatov to this county and those who have died in the line of duty and to those who fight for our freedoms everyday. (I know very few of us would actively encourage our own children to go into the armed forces. The least we could do recognize and give thanks to those who choose to do a job we might not do).

Learning in their memory would be nice. Having a solider or vet speak about their experiences in fighting to preserve freedom would be really special. But, just don't ignore the day like it doesn't exist. (Since my husband is home for a rare weekday, when the time comes, I personally would prefer a day to take the family out to a patriotic event and do some learning outside of the school walls).

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mycroft: who is talking about whether it is assur to learn on chol hamoed or chanukah? i was talking about not stopping learning for a secular holiday.

do you enjoy arguing and create strawmen to do so? or maybe you didnt read/understand what i wrote?

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10:31 PM  

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