This Shabbat we will be commemorating those who gave their lives in service to our country, and hearing the stories of SWESRS members who served during the Second World War and enlisted in National Service in the years after the War ended. For the first time, we will also be inviting our younger members to engage in the conversation, and to share their perspective on how the service and sacrifice of the War generation impacts on them.
This year the annual AJEX commemoration will take place online on Sunday at 2 30pm. Hopefully this will enable greater numbers to attend. Following on at 3 30pm we will be holding our SWESRS annual memorial service for Harry Jassby, the Canadian First World War airman who was shot down in a training accident over Fairlop Waters and laid to rest in St Peter’s Church just around the corner from Oaks Lane. Due to current government restrictions, we will be holding the service on Zoom and Streaming. You can find the link further down this weekly message. An unexpected benefit of the situation, this has opened up a wonderful opportunity to invite members of Harry’s family to join us from Canada, Israel and New York. They will be telling Harry’s story, as well as sharing personal perspectives on the significance to their lives of marking Harry’s memory. I do hope you will join us.
Remembering plays a central role in our tradition. Through memory, we connect to previous generations, gain a sense of who we are and our place in the line of Jewish history, honour those who have passed, and celebrate their contribution and achievements. This week the Jewish and the wider world mourns the loss of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, a giant of our generation in his religious leadership and contribution to religious, moral and philosophical life and thinking.
This week’s sedra, Chayei Sarah, opens with the words: ‘Now Sarah’s life was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, thus the years of Sarah’s life.’ Why this odd formulation, with its seemingly unnecessary repetition of ‘years’? In his Covenant and Conversation commentary on the weekly sedra, Rabbi Sacks brings Rashi’s explanation: “The word ‘years’ is repeated and without a number, to indicate that all her years were equally good.” ‘But how could anyone say that the years of Sarah’s life were equally good?’ asks Rabbi Sacks. ‘She had so many challenging episodes in her life.’ He concludes:
‘The answer is that to understand a death, we have to understand a life. Friedrich Nietzsche (a nineteenth century German philosopher) said: He who has a why in life can bear almost any how. It was Sarah and Avraham's sense of destiny and calling that gave their lives purpose and allowed them to survive the difficult times and even the unfulfilled goals at the end of their lives – because they had faith that the journey was not yet over. They died satisfied that they had played an important part, and taken the first steps for their future family.’
This weekend we honour and offer gratitude for the important part played by all those we remember. May their memories be for an enduring blessing.
Stay Safe and Be Well, Shabbat Shalom,