Sanford Speaks Out is the latest blog sensation written, edited and produced by Sanford D. Horn, a writer and educator. Sanford will write about issues of the day covering a myriad subjects: politics, education, culture, sports, religion and even food.
Friday, May 25, 2012
How Memorial Day Intersects with Shavuot
How Memorial Day Intersects with Shavuot Commentary by Sanford D. Horn May 25, 2012
This Memorial Day weekend, as the United States prepares
to trot out grills, picnic baskets, baseball gloves, and swim suits for
unofficial advent of summer, there is an interesting religious intersection in
the Jewish community with the observance of the holiday of Shavuot.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day,
officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander
of the Grand Army of the Republic, was first observed on May 30 of that year as
a day of remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their
This is a solemn and sacred time not just for veterans
who lost comrades in arms or the families of the fallen but for ALL freedom-loving
Americans to take time from their activities and remember why and how the
United States is the freest nation on earth.
Take time to remember how the right to a free press, free
speech, free assembly and the freedom to worship as we choose came about and has
been defended time and time again – against the British in the Revolutionary
War (1775-83) and the War of 1812; against Mexico (1845-48); against Spain in
1898, during World War I (1917-19), World War II (1941-45), during the Korean
War (1950-53), the war in Vietnam (1954-75), the Gulf War (1990-91) and the
continuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Brave men and women from various ethnic backgrounds and
religions have donned the uniform of the United States only to make the
ultimate sacrifice defending the American way of life, the Constitution of the
United States, the law of the land, which has stood the test of time since
ratification in 1791.
As to the connection between Memorial Day and Shavuot,
for the uninitiated, Shavuot literally means weeks and is the culmination of a
seven week period beginning during Passover.
Fifty days following the first day of Passover comes the
observance of “the single most important event in Jewish history” (aish.com) –
receiving the Torah by the Jewish people. The Jewish people – those who brought
monotheism to the world, the Ten Commandments and the Torah – the law of the
Jewish people wherever in the world they may reside.
The key here is the receipt of the Torah. It is one thing
to be given something; it is something else entirely to receive it.
This is also a solemn and sacred time where the study of
Torah is commanded to be undertaken throughout the night leading into the
morning prayers on Shavuot morning where included is the reading of the
Biblical Book of Ruth.
But it begs the question, why wait seven weeks to give
the Jewish people the gift of the Torah? Why not once they found safety upon
crossing the Red Sea escaping Egypt’s Pharaoh? To ensure that the recipients of
such a gift were in the right frame of mind and spirit to accept such a
It is customary to recite the Yizkor prayer for the
departed on Shavuot morning as well, which this year on the Hebrew calendar is
Monday, May 28, coincidentally coinciding with Memorial Day.
May they both be meaningful.
Sanford D. Horn is
a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.