What’s in a Name?

By all accounts, the war in Gaza was gruesome and tragic. One of the sad aspects of war, any war, is that it dehumanizes both combatants and victims. It causes people to behave in ways that are uncivilized. In modern warfare, because of the use of the skies for weapons, combatants most often do not know or see the victims of battle. Casualties are usually reported as numbers, not as human beings. I’ve been sadly struck by the way in which the human toll of war has been reported as a statistic. I am saddened by the huge losses on the Palestinian side of the conflict. Each of the people killed was a human being, created in the image of God. As a Jew and a Zionist, my heart aches for the Israelis who were killed in Gaza and Israel. I’m troubled by the lumping together of the soldiers who fell in battle into a group statistic, one that has been compared to losses in other wars. I’m troubled because each of those soldiers was a human being, a vital person pulsing with life and potential. Each of those soldiers left behind family and friends, hopes and dreams, and each of them would surely have made meaningful contributions to Israeli and human society. They are more than statistics, more than a footnote to an ugly war.

In this week’s parasha, we again read the Ten Commandments, reminding us of the moment that God revealed His essence to the People of Israel at Mt. Sinai. I think of the Kabbalistic teaching that God spoke not only to a nation, but to each individual that day. Indeed, the commandments appear in the singular, not the plural, form. Each individual was addressed personally by God. This reminds us that each person matters; each soul is endowed with Divine light and has innate and eternal value.

This Shabbat is known as “Shabbat Nachamu,” the Shabbat of comfort. Coming immediately after Tisha B’Av, a day of national mourning, Shabbat Nachamu begins a period of healing and renewal from loss and tragedy. For us today, and especially for Israelis, this is not merely a historical memory, it is a reality. On this “Shabbat Nachamu,” I ask that we pay tribute to the soldiers of the IDF who gave their lives in the defense of the State of Israel. Indeed, they gave their lives in the defense of the Jewish nation. I ask that each of us pay tribute to their lives by speaking their names. Below, I have included the list of the soldiers who were killed in Operation Protective Edge. Sometime over Shabbat, read the list. As you read each name, consider that they had their whole lives in front of them. Imagine them smiling or laughing, enjoying the pursuits in life that brought them joy. And humbly thank them for their sacrifice.

Sgt. First Class Adi Briga, age 23, of Beit Shikma.

Cpl Meidan Maymon Biton, age 20, of Netivot.

St.Sgt. Eliav Eliyahu Haim Kahlon, age 22, of Safed

Corporal Niran Cohen, age 20, of Tiberias.

St. Sgt. Moshe Davino, age 20, of Jerusalem.

NCO Sgt. First Class Barak Refael Degorker, age 27, of Gan Yavne

Cptn Liad Lavi, age 22, of Sadeh Nitzan

CWO Rami Kahlon, age 39, of Hadera

Lt. Roi Peles, age 21, of Tel Aviv

St.-Sgt. Matan Gotlib, age 21, of Rishon Lezion

Sgt. Nadav Raimond, age 19, from Shadmot Dvora

Sgt Dor Deri, age 18, of Jerusalem

Sergeant Sagi Erez, age 19, of Kiryat Ata

Sgt Barkai Yishai Shor, age 21, of Jerusalem

Sgt. Daniel Kedmi, age 18, of Tzofim

St. Sgt. Liel Gidoni, age 20, of Jerusalem

Major Benaya Sarel, age 26, of Kiryat Arba

Cpt. Liran Edry, age 31, of Ezuz

St. Sgt. Noam Rosenthal, age 20, of Meitar.

St. Sgt. Shay Kushnir, age 20, of Kiryat Motzkin

Capt. Omri Tal, age 22, of Yehud

Sgt First Class Daniel Marash, age 22, of Rishon Lezion

St.-Sgt. Guy Algranati, age 20, of Tel Aviv

St.-Sgt. Omer Hay, age 21, of Savyon

Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, age 23, of Kfar Saba

Capt. Tsvi Kaplan, age 28, of Kibbutz Merav,

St.-Sgt. Gilad Rozenthal Yacoby, age 21, of Kiryat Ono,

Maj. Tzafrir Bar-Or, age 32, of Acre,

St. Sgt. Oz Mendelovich, age 21, of Atzmon

St. Sgt. Bnaya Rubel, age 20, of Holon

Second Lt. Bar Rahav, 21, of Ramat Yishai

Sgt. Adar Barsano, age 20, of Nahariya

Maj. Amotz Greenberg, age 45, of Hod Hasharon

St.-Sgt. Eitan Barak, age 20, of Herzliya

Stf.-Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz, age 20, of Kfar Azar

Stf.-Sgt. Shachar Tase, age 20, from Pardesiya

Sgt. Max Steinberg, age 24, of Beersheba

St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, age 21, of Poriyah

Sgt. Ben Oanounou, age 19, of Ashdod

St. Sgt. Moshe Malko, age 20, of Jerusalem

Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, age 21, of Ra’anana

NCO Ohad Shemesh, age 27, from Beit Elazari

St.-Sgt. Oded Ben Sira, age 22, from Nir Etzion

Lt.-Col. Dolev Keidar, age 38, of Modi’in,

Sgt. Shon Mondshine, age 19, of Tel Aviv

Cptn Dmitri Levitas, age 26, of Jerusalem

St.-Sgt. Evyatar Turgeman, age 20, of Beit Shean

Sgt. Nadav Goldmacher, 23, of Beersheba

Chief Warrant Officer Kasahun Baynesian, age 39, of Netivot

Lt. Paz Eliyahu, age 22, of Kibbutz Evron

Captain Natan Cohen, age 23, of Jerusalem

St.-Sgt. Jordan Bensemhoun, age 22, of Ashkelon

Second Lt. Yuval Haiman, age 21, of Efrat

St.-Sgt. Shahar Dauber, age 20, of Kibbutz Ginegar

St.-Sgt. Li Mat, age 19, of Eilat

St.-Sgt. Tal Yifrah, age 21, of Rishon Lezion

St.-Sgt. Yuval Dagan, age 22, of Kfar Saba

St.-Sgt. Avraham Grintzvaig, age 21, of Petah Tikva

St.-Sgt. Gal Bason, age 21, of Holon

St.-Sgt. Guy Levy, age 21, of Kfar Vradim

St.-Sgt. Guy Boyland, age 21, of Ginosar

St.-Sgt. Amit Yaori, age 20, of Jerusalem

NCO Master Sgt. (res.) Yair Ashkenazy, age 36, of Rehovot,

I want to conclude this post with a well-known poem by a woman known only as Zelda. Born as Zelda Schneersohn Mishkovsky in 1914, this poet for the ages lived much of her life in Jersualem until her passing in 1984. One of her most famous poems is entitled “Each of Us Has a Name.”

Each of us has a name
given by God
and given by our parents

Each of us has a name
given by our stature and our smile
and given by what we wear

Each of us has a name
given by the mountains
and given by our walls

Each of us has a name
given by the stars
and given by our neighbors

Each of us has a name
given by our sins
and given by our longing

Each of us has a name
given by our enemies
and given by our love

Each of us has a name
given by our celebrations
and given by our work

Each of us has a name
given by the seasons
and given by our blindness

Each of us has a name
given by the sea
and given by
our death.

May the memories, and names, of Israel’s fallen soldiers be for a blessing.

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