On Shavuot we fulfill one of the daily six remembrances, namely the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, on the sixth day of Sivan in the year 2448.
The Jewish people have a Mitzvah obligation to remember Matan Torah every day of the year, the same as we are commanded to remember daily, the Exodus from Egypt.
This epoch-making event is recalled this year for the 3,334th time as we listen with great awe to the Torah reading of the Ten Commandments.
It is noteworthy that our Sages instituted the Yizkor memorial prayer to be recited on the second day of Shavuot in the Diaspora (this year,on Monday), and in the holy Land of Israel, on the first and only day of the Yom Tov Shavuot (on Sunday this year).
As we recite the Yizkor let us ask of ourselves as to what we are remembering at this sacred moment?
Shall we recall the terrible conflict that has upended Ukraine- shattering the lives of millions?
Will it be the memory of the myriads of Americans- who lost their lives to drug overdoses in the past few years?
Should we note at Yizkor the hundreds of thousands of unnecessary abortions - lives that would find cures for cancer and other ailments?
How about the seething hatred of Anti-Semitism, the calling of the Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, and the PLO. and recently, the Squad?
As world citizens, we ought to bring to memory the millions in communist China, brutally locked away in their homes,because of COVID containment?
Or the latest tragedy that unfolded to the horror of every decent American – the mass murder of innocent school children in Texas right before the Memorial Day Weekend?
The situation is depressing and demoralizing. Modern humankind seems to be in a dizzying downward spiral.
What can we as a people of Emunah, faith, do to correct and better the world?
YIZKOR - REMEMBER TO COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Let us remember the positives in our lives. The fact that we live in lands that provide the freedom of personal choices.
That we have a roof over our head and a comfortable home and community in which we reside.
Never forget, to graciously declare the words of the modeh ani, thank you prayer, as we wake up in the morning and fill our lungs with fresh air and can walk and function.
Be thankful that we are in a beautiful house and sanctuary of Hashem, sharing our Torah traditions together with family and friends, and celebrating our way of life.
Yes, all these, are the memories that should fill our minds and hearts as we are about to recite Yizkor
A thanksgiving to Hashem for our parents, and grandparents. uncles and aunts and those who preceded us, connecting us to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, showing us the way to a meaningful life, teaching us the ways of righteousness and goodness - this, too, is the purpose of Yizkor.
It is the compelling message to do good now and to nurture the world with all manner of goodness and kindness.
Do not delay whatever goodness, tzedaka and chesed, charity and kind deeds, you want to bring to the world. Do not delay, joining in a Torah study group.
The time is now! More than ever, during these sacred moments of Yizkor
UNLOCKING THE CODE OF THE WORD YIZKOR
For me, the word יזכור emblazoned on the cover of the Yizkor booklet conveys a message contained in the five Hebrew letters in the word Yizkor.
The letter - יוד to recall the Ten Commandments.
The letter זיין - to remember the compelling message of the Seven Universal Mitzvoth of Noah.
The letter כף - to recall with respect כבד את אביך ואמך the honor & fealty due to our father and mother.
The letter ואו - is the number “six” in the Hebrew alphabet.
It reminds us of the “Six Orders of the Mishna” the compendium of the entire Oral Law and Torah Shebaal Peh. That it too be remembered and observed as being essential to our Judaism.
And finally –
The letter ריש - to recall our Rebbes, Rosh Yeshivahs, the Rabbis, and the teachers who taught us the Torah and illuminated our lives with holiness and goodness.
Now, at Yizkor, our parents, relatives, martyrs and Torah leaders are all remembered together with the amazing kindnesses that Hashem has bestowed upon us, so that, despite the sadness and longing, we recite the prayer with hearts overflowing with blessing.
YIZKOR HELPS US RECOGNIZE – IT'S ALL FOR THE GOOD!
Indeed, the word Yizkor in Hebrew may be a code for the following lesson as well.
The word Yizkor in Hebrew may be divided into two.
The Torah states: “...Hashem has taken you from the iron crucible, from Egypt, to be a nation of heritage for HIM, as this very day.” (Devarim 4:20)
כור #1) – Translates as Crucible.
The pressures and challenges of life are compared to a crucible. The crushing exertions - challenges, trials, and limitations, which is part of life, is all for the good.
#2) The letters יוד and זיין equal the gematria of seventeen which is the gematria of the word טוב that equals seventeen.
That is to say: At יזכור we acknowledge that the toughest challenges we faced, in the past, in retrospect, is all for the good!
So, as we recite Yizkor, we must remember the innumerable sacrifices our parents and loved ones gave of themselves, so that our lives be more blessed and pleasant. We must appreciate the sacrifice of the IDF soldiers who fought for Israel, the terror vicitims and the Six Million Holocaust martyrs.
Our experience in Egypt called the כור הברזל prepared us to receive our holy Torah today on Shavuot that appoints each member of the Jewish people throughout the world- to be the champion and advocate for a moral and ethical world.
We have the obligation and privilege to affect the entire world that it be filled with a love and respect for every human being - bringing about the restoration and rebuilding of our holy Beit HaMikdosh, meriting a world filled with the knowledge of G-D and a world at peace with the arrival of the righteous Moshiach, Amen.
Rabbi Yehoshua S.Hecht is rabbi of Beth Israel Chabad of Westport/Norwalk CT and a Member of the RAA Presidium
Note: The Koren Yizkor Memory and Meaning in Hebrew and English can be found here