D’var Torah: On the Anniversary of the Somme

Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 1 July 2016

The statistics, when you try to relate them to our lives, are shattering.

One hundred years ago today – just one hundred years ago, in the lifetime of some of our members.  One hundred years ago today, in the time that this Friday night service takes (just one hour) the number of British soldiers killed, every hour through the day, was equivalent to every adult male of this community.  And in just the time of our Friday night service, a number equivalent to every other member of Alyth was injured.

It is an important reminder, as we are distracted by the minutiae of our lives, and by the frenzy of our politics, that we must never become complacent about the peace that we enjoy.  That these are not our sons is a historical anomaly, and an extraordinary blessing.

It is a blessing that it is our task to work to preserve.  The rabbis, who experienced loss and pain in their lives, understood that peace is not something that happens by chance, not something that falls into your lap – you need to work for it.

Psalm 34 states: “Seek peace, and pursue it”.  And from that the rabbis said that the pursuit of peace can be considered unique among our obligations as Jews.  While about other mitzvot it says, “If you happen upon,” “If it should occur,” “If you see,” [which, to quote Rabbi Hezekiah, “implies that if the opportunity to do the mitzvah comes upon you, then you must do it, and if not, you are not bound to do it”] in the case of peace, it is written, “Seek peace, and pursue it”.  Go out and make it happen.

On this 100th anniversary of the horrors of the Somme, let us remember that obligation, as we work to build the vision of a perfect age of the prophet Micah:
“And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares
And their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not take up sword against nation;
Never again shall they train for war”