Motti Wilhelm

2,656 50th Yahrzeits. A call to action

An Israeli tank crossing the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War. (Public Domain)
An Israeli tank crossing the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War. (Public Domain)

Nearly 3,000 families are observing the 50th Yahrzeit of a loved one whose life was cut short by the Yom Kippur War this week.

Half a century later, our geopolitical and psychological psyche are still tied and shaped by that poignant moment.

At nearly 2:00 PM on Yom Kippur Day, 50 years to the moment the war broke out, in our shul, the Yizkor prayer was being said.

This prayer, probably instituted during the massacres of the Crusaders and the early medieval pogroms, was established so that we can pay homage to our forebears and credit them through our actions.

To connect with all 2,656 men and women who lost their lives was too much so I thought about one: Yoav Yakir. After using all his shells, Yoav, a platoon commander, was left standing in the turret trying to fight tanks with a machine gun. A Yizkor for Yoav.

The prayer is not merely a memorial; it’s a pledge to action. Its operative word is “B’Avur” – (because of), remember, for I will take action.

May G‑d remember the soul of… who has gone to their [supernal] world, because I will donate charity for their sake…

When we take action inspired by those who passed, our predecessors continue to live; they have just generated real-world change. Yet again, they have made the world a better place.

The essence of the Yizkor prayer is to bring to life those we love and, through our actions, credit them with more achievement and effectiveness.

As we reflect on those who fought with bravery, courage, and determination, and recall those who gave their lives, as we take in the impact on those whom the war crippled and burned, and the many who subsequently died of heartbreak, we are filled with awe, appreciation, and gratitude.

This week, I spent time reading and listening to accounts of those who fought with bravery during the war. The question for us is: What is our “B’Avur”? What is our pledge? How are we making their lives and deaths even more meaningful and significant?

I welcome your thoughts and feedback. Reach me via email or WhatsApp 1-503-381-7119.

About the Author
Rabbi Motti Wilhelm received his diploma of Talmudic Studies from the Rabbinical College of Australia & New Zealand in 2003 and was ordained as a rabbi by the Rabbinical College of America and Israel’s former chief Rabbi Mordecha Eliyahu in 2004. He was the editor of Kovetz Ohelei Torah, a respected Journal of Talmudic essays. He lectures on Talmudic Law, Medical Ethics and a wide array of Jewish subjects and has led services in the United States, Canada, Africa and Australia. His video blog Rabbi Motti's Minute is highly popular as are his weekly emails. Rabbi Wilhelm and his wife Mimi lead Chabad SW Portland as Shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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