This week’s Torah portion includes a summary of the Biblical Jewish holidays, offering the core structure for the Jewish year. We have added more contemporary holidays and communal observances over the years, adding richness and more meaning to the cycle. While in the Omer period from Passover to Shavuot, we observed the newer commemorations of Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut. Last year, I started observing Yom Hazikaron with The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Day Ceremony organized by Combatants for Peace and the Bereaved Families Forum. The theme of this year’s 19th Joint Memorial Day Ceremony was “Sharing Our Humanity, Honoring Our Children. Stop the War.” The ceremony is in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, with everything captioned in the other two languages throughout the ceremony. Israelis and Palestinians grieve together and stand united in demanding an end to bloodshed. In mourning together, they seek to transform despair into hope and build compassion around their shared humanity. We remind us that occupation, oppression, and conflict are not inevitable. I have found the ceremonies powerful and a source of hope for what could be possible in the future. You can view the ceremony using the link HERE.

I look forward to our continued search for meaning in the cycle of the Jewish year and our lives. Evan Schultz wrote this beautiful poem about the cycle of Jewish holidays. I share it with you with his permission, bringing the cycle together from Emor to today:

on rosh hashanah
we celebrate the
birth of the world.
on tisha bav
we mourn the
loss of our holy place.
on tu bishvat
we celebrate the
birth of the trees.
on yom hashoah
we mourn the
loss of the six million.
on passover
we celebrate the
birth of our people.
on yom hazikaron
we mourn the
loss of our heroes.
on yom haatzmaut
we celebrate the
birth of our homeland.
a cycle of birth and loss
celebration and mourning.
a jewish year
in all its poignant beauty.