Friday, June 14, 2019

The Importance of Flag Day

Today is celebrated as “Flag Day” throughout the United States. On this day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the “Stars and Stripes” as the flag of the United States. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that established every June 14, as “Flag Day.” An act of Congress followed suit in 1946, making Flag Day a national observance, though not technically a Federal holiday. On June 14, 1937, Pennsylvania, became the first U.S. state to celebrate “Flag Day” as a state holiday.

Why is a flag so important? Let us illustrate by discussing another flag.

In the late 1940s, there were those in the Jewish community who felt that only a religious state established by the Messiah, and that a secular Jewish state should not be celebrated or acknowledged. When an organization with such values held its convention in Jerusalem, they asked that the flags of all the convention participants be flown in addition to that of the State of Israel, given their antipathy to the State and her flag in its early days. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in a now famous lecture given before the Religious Zionists of America, responded as follows.

“If you were to ask me, how do I, a Talmudic Jew, look upon the flag of the State of Israel, and has it any halachic value? – I would answer plainly. I do not hold at all with the magical attraction of a flag or of similar symbolic ceremonies. Judaism negates ritual connected with physical things. Nonetheless, we must not lose sight of a law in the Shulchan Aruch to the effect that: “One who has been killed by non-Jews is buried in his clothes (and not in the traditional burial shrouds), so that his blood may be seen and avenged, as it is written: ‘I will hold (the heathen) innocent, but not in regard to the blood which they have shed’ (Joel 4:21). In other words, the clothes of the Jews acquire a certain sanctity when spattered with the blood of a martyr. How much more is this so of the blue and white flag, which has been immersed in the blood of thousands of young Jews who fell in the War of Independence defending the country and the population (religious and irreligious alike; the enemy did not differentiate between them). It has a spark of sanctity that flows from devotion and self-sacrifice. We are enjoined to honor the flag and treat it with respect. It does not require a hechsher (rabbinic approval) from the non-Jewish Union Jack.”

On behalf of Jewish Treats, Happy Flag Day!

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