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Memorial Day 5775

Wednesday, 20 May, 2015 - 5:19 pm

By Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman

Have you lost a loved one? How often do you think about them? How often do you remember them? I don't just mean remembering that they once were a physical part of your life, but actually focusing on remembering them?

This year by Divine Providence Memorial Day coincides with one of the 4 traditional Memorial days on the Jewish calendar (excluding those days associated with Israel's Memorial and Holocaust Memorial).  These are the days we recite Yizkor; Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeres, Pesach (last day) and Shavous.

Why do we recite Yizkor (memorial prayers) on these days most of which are considered "Zman Simchaseine" - time of our joy?

Among the answers are that remembering doesn't have to conflict with joy.  If fact when capitlizing on the energy and theme of each of these holidays, remembering our loved ones can bring a deeper liberation which in turn increases joy. 

Let's focus on the theme and energy of Shavous.  Shavous is known as Zman Matan Torahseinu - the time of the giving of the Torah.  On this holiday we relive the giving of the Torah (join us on Sat. night 9:00 pm for all night Torah study and Sun. 11 am reading of Ten Commandments and Brunch). At the core of the celebration is the essential bond that came about through the Revelation at Sinai.  While the Torah is filled with Divine Wisdom, at its essence it is the marriage contract between the Jewish people and the Almighty.  

In fact there are times when the marriage gets bumpy, sometimes it's G-d's doing and sometimes it's our doing.  But regardless, the contract and the commitment to our relationship is deeper than the bumpy road.  At Sinai there was no transmission of any physical objects (like the Tablets - 40 days later and that's a long story, or the Torah scroll - 40 years later and that's also another story).  There was also not transmission of law as the Revelation was too intense for the physical mind to comprehend and for their bodies to contain - the Midrash says their souls left their bodies and were revived.

Sinai was a moment of intense intimacy that transcended all physical expression or limitations.

Indeed, the relationships we have with our loved ones are essential.  Our parents birthed us, we are part of them, they are a part of us (you don't get to choose your parents and parents don't get to choose their children).  This is true even if the relationship is a rocky and bumpy one.  

On Shavous when reciting Yizkor the Memorial Prayer, we remember the essential bond we have with our parents (see commandment #5), just like the essential bond we have with G-d (see commandment #1).

I hope you'll join me on Monday at 6:30 PM for a Yizkor service at Chabad as we remember and reconnect essentially with our loved ones that have departed.

May we all accept the 3327th giving of the  Torah and the recommitment to a good relationship with G-d in a joyous and personal manner. 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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