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“That America’s Heroes Shall Not Have Died in Vain” and a special El Malé Raḥamim prayer for Memorial Day, by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (1945)

Hebrew Source (English)

That America’s Heroes Shall Not Have Died in Vain

Memorial Day is a day of solemn memories and inspiring reflections.
It reminds us of the lives that were sacrificed in the struggle to save the nation.

How can we redeem the waste of human life,
the frustration of the hopes of so many of our youth,
the desolated homes and the broken hearts
resulting from the wars in which our nation engaged?

Not by tears and lamentations,
and not by erecting monuments in memory of the dead;

Not by boasting of their heroism as though it were our own,
and taking glory to ourselves for their sacrifice;

Not by pomp and processions
with flaunting banners and flashing weapons,
to martial music and the exciting beat of drums.

Only by keeping faith with our heroes
can we perpetuate their deeds;
only by fulfilling the purposes for which they exposed themselves to death
can we redeem their sacrifice from futility.

Grant, O God,
that the example of their devotion to their country,
which they held dearer than life,
may move us to equal loyalty,
to a pure and exalted patriotism;

That it impel us to make our country great,
its laws just and wise,
its culture deep and true,
its economy productive, equitable and free,
and its religion profound and pure.

Then will no sacrifice for preserving the nation be too high a price to pay.

If we want indeed to honor the memory
of those who gave their lives that the nation might live,
let us highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain;

That the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom,
and that government of the people, for the people and by the people
shall not perish from the earth;

That the world shall be made safe for democracy,
and that democracy shall save the world;

That our nation take its place among the family of nations
which shall fulfill the ancient prophecy:
“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not life up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.”[1] Cf. Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3. 

The Congregation rise and remain standing, while the Reader recites the memorial prayer.

אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים שׁוֹכֵן בַּמְּרוֹמִים
הַמְצֵא מְנוּחָה נְכוֹנָה תַּֽחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה.
בְּמַעֲלוֹת קְדוֹשִׁים וּטְהוֹרִים
כְּזֹֽהַר הָרָקִֽיעַ מַזְהִירִים.
לְנִשְׁמוֹת אֵֽלֶּה שֶׁמָּסְרוּ נַפְשָׁם
בְּעַד אַמֶרִיקָה וּשְׁאִפוֹתֶיהָ הַנַּעֲלוֹת׃
O God, full of compassion, who dwells on high,
grant rest beneath your sheltering wings,
in the ranks of the holy and pure
whose splendor is like that of the heavens,
to the souls of those who sacrificed their lives
for the sake of America and American ideals.

אָנָּא בַּֽעַל הָרַחֲמִים.
הַסְתִּירֵם בְּסֵֽתֶר כְּנָפֶֽיךָ לְעוֹלָמִים.
וְתִצְרוֹר בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים אֶת־נִשְׁמָתָם.
אַתָּה הוּא נַחֲלָתָם.
וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן׃
O Lord of Mercy,
bring them under the cover of your wings for ever,
and preserve the bond that unites their souls with life;
You, are their portion forever.
And let us say, Amen.

Sing “America“, or “America the Beautiful“, or “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

This service for Memorial Day appears on pages 541-544 of The Sabbath Prayer Book (Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation, 1945). In the El Malé Raḥamim, I have replaced “thee, thy, and thou” archaisms. –Aharon N. Varady

Source(s)

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Notes

Notes
1 Cf. Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3.

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