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Yizkor Shavuot

05/16/2021 09:40:34 AM


Irene Falkenstein Case

G-d gave the Jewish People the Festivals for gladness and joy.  Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals in the Torah.  On Shavuot we commemorate Matan Torah, the Gift of Torah from G-d.  Studying and observing the Torah is the source of our joy.  Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is also known in the Torah as:

  • Hag Hakatzir: The Festival of the Harvest, marking the end of the spring barley harvest.

  • Hag Habikkurim:  The Festival of the First Fruits, bringing of the first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem. 

  • Atzeret:  Stopping, marking the conclusion of the seven-week counting of the Omer.


There is the allusion in the Zohar to Shavuot as a mystical wedding between G-d, the bridegroom, and the Jewish People, the bride.  At Mount Sinai, the Jewish People proclaimed ‘Na’aseh venishma,’ ‘We will do, & we will listen.’  


However, it is a Jewish custom to pause from our Festival celebrations to remember our departed family and friends by reciting Yizkor prayers in their memory.  By reciting the Yizkor prayers we reaffirm our eternal love and bond with their souls.  


Fundamental to Jewish belief is the eternity of the soul.  A loved one’s death is not the end of their energy, because all energy in our universe never dies, it only changes states.  A loved one’s energy (soul) is still alive.  Their death was only the death of their physical body; it is not the death of their soul, which is eternal and immortal.  Their soul has transitioned into another world of being, to the realm of the spirit.   Even though the soul has not died, we mourn over the loss of their physical presence in our lives.  


The formal Jewish period of mourning ends 11 months after a loved one’s death.  However, our memories, feelings, and thoughts of them will always be with us.  I hope that our memories of our loved ones, and the times we shared together, will give us strength, comfort, love, courage, and peace.  For the good memories we have, be very grateful.  For those memories that may not be as good, we should forgive them with our love, understanding, empathy, as well as giving them the benefit of the doubt.  If we can only love a perfect or faultless person, then we will never love at all, since nobody is, or will ever be, perfect or faultless.  Our imperfections, faults, problems, mistakes, transgressions, misunderstandings, shortcomings, are what makes us all human and lovable. 


The soul of the departed can no longer perform any more mitzvot or add to the soul’s merit.  The only way that our loved one’s soul can gain additional merits is for us, the living, to perform mitzvot, give Tzedakah, study Torah and recite Yizkor and the Mourner’s Kaddish in their memory.  The Mourner’s Kaddish makes no reference to death, for it is a prayer of life to proclaim the glorification and sanctification of G-d’s Name.  How can the Mourner’s Kaddish help a mourner heal?  Below, may be some ways it may help us heal.  


  • At this time of loss, by reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish to glorify and sanctify G-d’s Name, we connect with G-d, the source of all good in our world.

  • At this time of loss, when we have turned inward in our loneliness, grief, loss, and pain, we also need to turn outward to recognize that our world is constantly being created according to G-d’s will.

  • At this time of loss, we also need to pray for the lives of the entire Family of Israel.

  • At this time of loss, when each and every moment is so difficult and painful, we also need to focus on eternity.

  • At this time of loss, when no language or words are adequate enough to express our loss, grief, and pain, we also need to acknowledge that the glorification and sanctification of G-d’s Name is also beyond all language, words, and expression.

  • Even though we may never understand the why’s of our loved one’s illness and death, we also need to accept all of the Divine judgments as good, including the Divine judgment of death.

  • Even after G-d has taken away our loved one’s physical life, we also need to bless G-d’s Name as well as acknowledge our trust and belief in G-d.


If we are able to do the above, then we may be blessed with the great blessing of peace.  Peace that will provide us with the necessary strength, courage, comfort, and love to work through our loss, grief, pain, and loneliness.  The blessing of peace may not only be just for ourselves.  Through our actions of loving kindness, our blessing of peace can also have a positive influence on our family, friends, neighbors, community, all of Israel, mankind, as well as on G-d.

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782