TAPS ON SHAVUOS – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
This year puts the Hebrew and English calendars in rare contact. On Saturday night begins the festival of Shavuos, the Feast of Weeks, when we celebrate the anniversary of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. After our ancestors crossed the Red Sea to attain freedom from Egyptian slavery, and after seven weeks of a trying and dangerous march through the desert, they arrived at the mountain and accepted the Commandments that became our Constitution. And we became a nation. So in our synagogues on Sunday morning we will stand and listen once again to the Ten Commandments, or as they are called in Hebrew aseres ha-dibros – the ten statements, the eternal simple principles of right and wrong.
That’s not all there is to this festival, however. Like some other major holidays – Passover, Shmini Atzeres, Yom Kippur – Shavuos includes a memorial service, Yizkor. In traditional congregations, this takes place on the second day of the holiday, Monday morning. And this year, it coincides with Memorial Day when Americans honor those who gave their lives in battle for our country. This year, we may very well hear taps sounded on Shavuos.
For all of us, it offers a special opportunity to expand our solemn observance. Military tombstones include many Stars of David alongside crosses. And we can fly the flag on our homes in loyal respect, while we go to our congregations to say the Yizkor prayers.
Of course, Memorial Day continues after taps are played. Americans enjoy a national holiday. Maybe our neighbors would like to share our traditional dairy dishes this Shavuos. As we join in observing sacred memories, we can legitimately celebrate our two holidays together. After all, it doesn’t happen every year. Khag sameyakh!