Benny asked me this week, "What is the difference between Sukkot and Shavuot?" My quick answer was, "It is Zeman Matan Toratenu, the time of the giving of our Torah." He instantly responded (to my delight) "at the end of the Counting of the Omerwhen Moses came down from the mountain." Monday morning is the second day of Shavuot as well as Memorial Day. We will be adding the Yizkor or memorial service as part of our davening (praying).
Jewish law shuns mourning on any holiday (as well as Shabbat), and in fact the onset of a Jewish holiday cuts short the shiva period of mourning. Why then do we recite Yizkor, a mournful prayer, specifically on days when it is taboo? Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner writes that Yizkor overrides the normal mourning prohibition because the prayer serves not so much as a prayer of mourning but instead as a tool which unites the community:
"...this is the goal of our Yizkor - to generate a communal moment of bonding and consolation - and so we use specifically those days of greatest gathering, Shabbat and Yom Tov and Yom Kippur, for this purpose. Precisely on these days of sacred communal gathering, we bond in an act of consolation, which is viewed not as a negation of our joy but as a celebration of our community. The Jew who mourns a victim of the Holocaust, the Jew who mourns a victim of terror in Israel, the Jew who mourns a grandmother or a child or a spouse or a friend-we are all part of the same nation, the same community, and if these are the days when our community comes together as one, then these shall be the days when we find communal comfort."
The same principle applies to the American Jewish community. A few short weeks ago, the Jewish community gathered on Israel's Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) to remember the IDF soldiers and terror victims who gave their lives in defense of the Jewish state. We must also use the prayer to unite with the loved ones of the dedicated United States of America Armed Forces who gave their lives to protect and defend our freedom (you can find a list here). It is my hope that these prayers will bring blessing and solace to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and their families and friends, and that they will likewise serve to bond us together in this great community of men and women dedicated to spreading freedom and democracy around the world.
Join us this Shavuot (and Memorial Day) as we will remember those family members important to us, in addition to our American fallen soldiers. Yizkor will begin at approximately 10:45 on Monday morning.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham