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Four Funerals and a Memorial Day

This week we are burying four people: a young husband/father/brother, four days later his 80 year old father, a woman with significant challenges, and a woman who struggled with dementia. These brief identifiers do little to describe the vibrant lives and loves that animated the people who died. Each life was full; each loss is painful. Each family will remember warm memories as they walk the long paths of mourning.

Mourning Jewish Soldiers among all American Soldiers
As these individual families prepare to bury their loved ones, we as an American nation observe Memorial Day, a day to remember all those who lost their lives in defense of our country. How do we remember them? Countless individuals have given their lives.

Over email, one may receive a listing of soldiers who died each week. It contains sparse information – a name, rank, hometown. The list is lacking the stories and details that animated the person behind the name. Recently, the National Museum of American Jewish Military History published a list of Jewish soldiers who lost their lives in recent conflicts. Perhaps you will pause for a moment and read each name, ensuring that our Jewish brothers and sisters are recognized – a least in our hearts – for their sacrifice.

A Prayer for Memorial Day
The prayer below, written by Rabbi Matt Friedman and originally published on the RJ.org blog last year, may be read as you start or conclude your day.  You might read it before the big barbecue or your trip to the beach.

Let us ask God to protect, heal and comfort those who serve. And let us, by praying, raise our own awareness, sense of responsibility, and appreciation for those who defend our country.

Eloheinu v’Elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu – Our God and God of our ancestors,
Watch over those who defend our nation.
Shield them from harm and guide them in all their pursuits.
Grant their commanders wisdom and discernment
in their time of preparation and on the battlefield.
Should battle erupt may their victory be swift and complete. 

May the loss of life for any of your creations be avoided.
Grant healing to those who are wounded
and safe redemption to those who fall into enemy hands.
For those who have lost their lives, grant consolation
Your presence to those who were close to them. 

We also ask that you stand with our President and all our military leaders.
Guide them in their decision making
so that Your will is implanted within their minds.
May it be Your will that world hostilities come to a rapid end
And that those in service are returned safely to their families. 

We pray that freedom will dawn for the oppressed and
Fervently we hope that the vision of Your prophet will come to be,
“Let nation not lift up sword against nation nor learn war anymore.”
May this vision come to pass speedily and in our day,

Learn more about how you can support the men and women in our armed forces by visiting the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism’s Support Our Troops page.

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