Originally published in the Times of Israel
A few years ago I was visiting with my mother A”H in Jerusalem around a week after Pesach. We were sitting on the porch and she began rummaging through a closet nearby. I asked, “What are you looking for”? Her reply, “The flag, it’s Iyar, we have to hang the flag up”.
She eventually found the flag with some kind of accessory for attaching it which she had probably sewn years prior for something or other. It seemed that it survived all these years for this purpose alone. Knowing my mother it was clear that no piece of fabric goes to waste.
Assuming that it was an effort for her, I offered to hang up the flag and began to do so. But she insisted and didn’t let up. When I placed it down for a second to move a potted plant she grabbed the flag and with lightning speed characteristic of her movements in better days gone by, she quickly and efficiently hung up the flag.
All I could do was take a step back and watch.
That’s when I saw the full picture.
Had she relented and not insisted on doing it herself I would have missed the precious picture that says a thousand words:
Between Yom Hashoa and Yom Haatzmaut, a 90-year-old holocaust survivor is hanging the Israeli flag on her porch in Yerushalayim.
Only three words passed through my mind-
Am Yisrael Chai.
* * *
Looking back at this amazing experience I realize that there is so much more depicted in the picture.
Hanging a flag is more than an act of nationalistic solidarity. It’s proclaiming that you are part of something big.
Being part of something big gives a purpose; and it requires commitment. It may require relinquishing your immediate desires and whims for the good of the society on the whole.
Liberation from slavery in Egypt alone wasn’t enough to create a nation. It was only when the Israelites stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, and received the laws and commandments which gave their lives a structure that the newly-freed slaves actually became a nation.
It’s what connected each individual to something bigger.
To make it work the individual has to cooperate and adjust to the framework. Otherwise anarchy reigns free.
True liberty is acknowledging that the world doesn’t revolve around you; rather that you are a part of something big, even if it’s not always on your terms.
That’s how it’s in the family.
When the child belongs as a part of the whole, his connection is more likely to be one of natural adjustment. This would entail the realization that his desires don’t necessarily take precedence in the family dynamics. Though it may seem oppressive, in the long run it’s empowering.
However, if he is perceived or perceives himself (consciously or unconsciously) to be in the ‘center’, with everything revolving around him and his whims, the development of his natural place in the family dynamics is compromised.
The generation that rose from the ashes and founded the State of Israel dedicated their lives to being a part of something big. These were people who, to quote my mother: “Did what they had to do before they did what they wanted to do“, and in the long run that made them giants.
I thank that generation, and specifically my parents and in-laws for this each and every day.