Veterans and Us: A Reflection from Rabbi Shapiro
Two weeks ago I shared some thoughts about our “fifth aliyah” on Yom Kippur morning.
You may remember we dedicated that final aliyah to congregants who had served in the armed services or were currently in the reserves or on actual active duty.
When I thought of this aliyah, I really had no idea how many people would come to the front. I think the entire congregation was moved to see the response. Although we didn’t count, I have to imagine at least 40 people came forward for the honor. Especially when I saw that number of people, I was pleased we had made this aliyah possible for these people - even as I looked at them and tried to guess what the dates for their service must have been.
Some looked as if they were World War Two vets. Most looked as if their service was much later. Perhaps Vietnam and then beyond to Iraq and Afghanistan.
One interesting fact: Although a tremendous number of our congregants were of military age during the years 1965 to 1976, it was interesting to note that there didn’t seem to be a large number of people from that age group on the bimah. We know why. Those years were the controversial years of the Vietnam War, and many men in our congregation were very much against serving in that war. Some would have avoided service based on pacifism. Some would have had draft numbers that meant they were not going to be chosen. Some were in school and maybe stayed in school to get a deferment.
The men of that generation were/are of a generation that spoke and sang about peace and against war so that very few could ever imagine feeling positive about the military.
And yet there we were – A congregation with so many who had once been so much against “war” now honoring vets and reservists.
I guess the lesson is that times change. We change. Wars change. The sense of who we are and what our country means changes too. What we might never have done on Yom Kippur morning in 1971 seems so right for 2011.
If there is a Yom Kippur lesson to be learned it might be this one: Never be too sure of yourself. Never say never. Circumstances change. If we are fortunate enough and wise enough, we change too. We learn and grow because that is what life is all about.
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