ZIKARON and ZECHER
Dictionary definitions aside, I feel it safe to say that a memorial honors a person or an event. It wasn’t until recently however, that I felt it safe to say why the Kiddush on Friday night contained both Zikaron and Zecher, two very similar words akin to memorial, arbitrarily translated as “remembrance” and “memorial.” With Memorial Day less an a week away, I offer what I believe to be three distinctions between the terms Zikaron and Zecher, in the hope that these terms add meaning and significance to a day that I cannot help but feel is not accorded its proper due.
Despite untold hours sitting in the dentist chair with my mouth open, I know next to nothing when it comes to terms such as “mesial” and “distal.” I do know however, that dentistry is one of the few professions, if not the only profession, where “injection” and “extraction,” antonyms if you will, are commonly used terms, in that a dentist does both. I also know that the terms “injection” and “extraction” help explain the difference between Zikaron and Zecher.
Zikaron,hearkening back tothe creation story, connotes injection, in that it relates everything HaShem saw fit to place into this world. Zecher, hearkening back to the story of the exodus from Egypt,relates everything that occurredwhen our ancestors were taken out of Egypt. While both terms are so very similar, in that they ask us to recall an event, both terms are so very different, in that the Zikaron events of creation of the world and the Zecher events of creation of a nation are diametric opposites.
It has been close to 8 decades, sinceRobert Lee Scott Jr. brigadier general in the United States Air Force and flying Ace of World War II wrote God is My Co-Pilot. Close to 5800 years ago, HaShem came up with the converse. As far as HaShem was concerned, we humans were His co-pilot. Once the six days of creation had taken place, HaShem handed over the controls to us. Yet, it is He who remains in charge. Every Friday evening, during Kiddush; we are reminded of this through Zikaron. But we are also reminded of one other thing during Kiddush as well. We are reminded that just as HaShem devoted His energies to this world for the very first six days ever recorded, so too are we reminded that we need to devote our energies to our comtemporary world for six days each week. Hence, the other Kiddush term, Zecher.
Perhaps Memorial Day can be seen and appreciated along similar terms. Zikaron ought to be understood as those in our armed forces who injected themselves in the fight for liberty; Zecher ought to be understood in terms of our being able to extract and enjoy the blessings of freedom, thanks to those in our armed forces who gave of themselves and put their lives on the line.
Time was, when American students were called upon to remember the blessings of this country on a daily basis, with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. This was Zecher. Time was, when a day was set aside at the end of May to pay tribute to those who were prepared to give their lives – and at times did – for their blessed country. This was Zikaron. Last but not least, during the Song of the Sea, which we recite in the daily Shacharit service, we are reminded HaShem, Ish Milchamah, HaShem is a warrior (Exodus 15:3). That’s Zecher. HaShem’s warrior days are long over. HaShem now limits Himself to overseeing battles and wars and keeping a watchful eye over those who risk their lives, as they fight for freedom and liberty. Let us set aside one day a year to keep those whom HaShems oversaw throughout battles and wars in our hearts. That’s Zikaron.
A meaningful and moving Memorial Day to those in Uniform