Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Yom Haatzmaut
To dedicate this lesson

Why are Yom Ha’Zikaron & Yom Ha’Atzmaut Juxtaposed?


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

In our weekly portion, we read about lepers. Among other things, there is a very strange ritual which a leper must execute:

Then the kohen shall order, and the person to be cleansed shall take two live, clean birds, a cedar stick, a strip of crimson [wool], and hyssop. The kohen shall order, and one shall slaughter the one bird into an earthenware vessel, over spring water. [As for] the live bird, he shall take it, and then the cedar stick, the strip of crimson [wool], and the hyssop, and, along with the live bird, he shall dip them into the blood of the slaughtered bird, over the spring water. He shall then sprinkle seven times upon the person being cleansed from tzara’ath, and he shall cleanse him. He shall then send away the live bird into the [open] field.(Leviticus 14, 4-7)

The leper must take "two live, clean birds" and then slaughter one of them. The second bird is sent away to its freedom. However, before it is sent away, it is dipped into the blood of the dead, slaughtered bird.

What is the underlying concept behind this unusual ritual?

Both birds are equal. Both are clean and pure. Why does one live while the other is slaughtered? There is no objective reason behind this. One bird is randomly chosen and then slaughtered. The live bird flies to freedom.

However, the live bird must always remember that it remained alive thanks to the slaughtered bird. It must never forget that if it were not for the slaughtered bird, it would have been the one chosen to die! The bird is free, but only after it is dipped in the blood of the slaughtered bird. In this way, it will always remember that it’s life was granted thanks to the bird that did not live.

Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut are juxtaposed. This is a puzzling and difficult reality. The mourning and sadness intrinsic to Yom Ha’Zikaron are rapidly replaced by the joy and celebration of Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

This juxtaposition teaches us something truly wonderful. On Yom Ha’Atzmaut we rejoice and celebrate. We thank Hashem for the great privilege of living in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel. Yet, at the height of our joy we must always remember: we live here thanks to our beloved soldiers who gave their lives for Kiddush Hashem. The soldiers who fell in the defense of our country and our people made it possible to build and develop the State of Israel. The live bird is dipped in the blood of the slaughtered bird. Yom Ha’Atzmaut is dipped in the blood of Yom Ha’Zikaron.
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