Israelis visit graves of fallen Israeli soldiers at Mount Herzl Cemetery (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90) Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

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Israel’s Independence Day is observed immediately after Memorial Day to remind us that without the sacrifice of Israel’s fallen heroes there would be no triumphant future.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

The Torah portion regarding lepers is almost always read on the week before or the week after Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day).

The purification procedure for one who was stricken with this spiritual skin disease was as follows: “The priest shall tell the individual to take two live birds, a cedar stick, a strip of crimson wool, and hyssop…One bird shall be slaughtered into an earthenware vessel over pure spring water…The living bird, the cedar stick, the crimson wool, and the hyssop, will be dipped into the blood of the slaughtered bird…He shall then send away the live bird into the field.” (Leviticus 14:4-7)

Notice how two birds are taken. Also notice how one bird is later set free – only one bird is slaughtered. There is no other situation in the Torah when an animal designated for an offering is set free. But before it is set free, it is dipped in the blood of the dead, slaughtered bird.

There is an eerie connection between this bird sacrifice procedure and our observance of Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut.

In some ways, the bird that is set free owes its life to the bird that was slaughtered. Indeed, the bird won’t likely forget this, having been dipped into the blood of the slaughtered bird, and hence, stained with blood.

On Yom Hazikaron we remember our fallen soldiers, on Yom Ha’atzmaut we celebrate our inpendence and national revival. The two days observed are back to back.

We go from mourning to celebration. Without Yom Hazikaron, there would be no Yom Haatzmaut. We must never forget “the bird that was slaughtered” – our brothers and sisters who fell so that we could have our state. Honor their memory. Celebrate their sacrifice.

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