Just before Israel marks its Holocaust Remembrance Day and memorial day for the fallen IDF soldiers, Religious Council head’ of Rosh Ha’ayin in central Israel, Rabbi Hanania Tsfar, is speaking against the customary ceremonies.
Standing at attention while the siren is sounded “is worthless,” writes Tsfar in a letter sent to the head of the local Yad Labanim commemoration organization. By his standards, it is better to recite Psalms and Kaddish during that time. Tsfar also asked Yad Labanim not to lay wreaths on gravesites and memorials, since it is considered “gentile practice.”
In previous years, Tsfar says, the Religious Council had placed a wreath during the IDF Memorial Day, but this year, they will prefer to light memorial candles and ask the public to read Psalms to elevate the souls of the fallen soldiers.
“It is our duty to express the Jewish Halacha which sees no benefit to the soul in placing flower wreaths, whereas candles have a long lasting effect and are highly beneficial, since a man’s soul is akin to a candle, so by reciting Talmudic phrases and Kaddish, the soul finds comfort and is elevated to higher spheres.”
Regarding his comment about the pointlessness of merely standing at attention during the siren and his call to recite Jewish text, Tsfar added that “it must be done modestly so as no to upset the secular population that does not understand its meaning and value. It’s high time to speak the truth and make a change.”
Head of the local Yad Labanim memorial bureau, Ovadia Simhi, expressed his discontentment with Tsfar’s suggestions: “No one has brought this up except for him (Tsfar.) We’re not going to act any differently,” said Simhi, adding that “one doesn’t mix politics with sensitive, military ceremonies such as Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day.”
As far as placing wreaths, Simhi said: “Who are we to act any differently than the rest of the country?”