Parashat Vayeitzei

Friday, November 12, 2021/8 Kislev, 5782
Parashat Vayeitzei Genesis 28:10−32:3

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I attended an inspiring, heartbreaking, and powerful Armistice Day event. Clergy, community leaders, military families, veterans, and community members gathered to honor people who served in our nation’s military and advocate for peace and justice. November 11th became a national holiday after World War I. At 11 am on November 11th, World War I came to an end. Armistice Day was created to remember the lives of more than 20 million souls who died in a brutal war, the likes of which the world had never seen. The day honored all those who served in World War I and the immense sacrifices families made. It was also a day filled with hope for a peace-filled future.

After World War I, red poppies sprouted up throughout Western Europe. After the ground was upturned by soldiers’ boots and fertilized by the blood of fallen soldiers, dormant seeds came to life. These poppies were a symbol of mourning and war and hope for a future of peace.

In 1954, the US government decided to change Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day to honor not just those who served in the US military in World War I, but also in any war. Doing so is incredibly important. All those who served deserve an enormous amount of respect and support. Unfortunately, many veterans do not feel that.

Yesterday, soldiers and military families shared their stories. They spoke about how serving impacted them in ways they had not anticipated. They talked about the pain of serving in wars they did not understand. Sometimes war is unavoidable, but these families advocated for less conflict and more peace, less aggression, and more diplomacy.

Yesterday, we marked Armistice Day, not to replace the importance of Veteran’s Day (indeed all of us who were present having nothing but respect for our veterans), but to recommit ourselves to the pursuit of justice and peace and to advocate for demilitarization whenever possible. We can best honor those who sacrificed so much by supporting them and planting seeds of hope for a world that is more thoughtful about when and how we enter into war.

I end with words from Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlov’s prayer for peace which I shared at yesterday’s event:

May it be Your will,
Holy One, our God, our ancestors’ God,
that you erase war and bloodshed from the world
and in its place draw down
a great and glorious peace
so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation
neither shall they learn war any more.

Rather, may all the inhabitants of the earth
recognize and deeply know
this great truth:
that we have not come into this world
for strife and division
nor for hatred and rage,
nor provocation and bloodshed.

We have come here only
to encounter You,
eternally blessed One.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Cassi Kail