As Jews, our main goal is to try to do what is spiritually correct as defined by the values and laws of the Eternal Torah and teachings of G-d. This morning let us investigate Shabbos Yizkor. What is the Yizkor Prayer? What does it mean to our beloved deceased friends and family who are no longer in this world, but we are told are still watching over us and our activities?
I would like to share a personal story with you about my grandfather who had eight brothers and sisters in Poland before Hitler. Three months before the Holocaust started my grandmother and grandfather, who had a 1,000 family congregation, decided to leave for Palestine. They were honorable, pious people with a beautiful house, large family, land and a vibrant, loving community of neighbors. When a few anti-Semitic individuals began vocalizing ugly hateful comments and behaviors most townspeople were disturbed, but did not take these rebel-rousers seriously.
My grandparents, as leaders, were deeply disturbed and worried about these events and tried their best to save the townspeople. With great reservation and uncertainty my grandfather made a bold and swift decision: to move to Palestine, along with my father, two uncles, their wives and my grandmother. The town thought my grandfather was over-reacting. No one listened to him. After a heart-breaking unsuccessful attempt to evacuate the town. Who doesn’t know the frustration of when you know something and you want good for somebody in a bad situation and our words fall on deaf ears? It is a very frustrating place to be. The townspeople literally thought the wise rabbi had flipped.
In our family archives it is recorded by my grandfather that upon their arrival in Israel, they started from nothing but the clothes they wore and a few pots and pans, a couple of coins and a drop of food and their holy Torah books. Tragically it is also recorded that their entire family and village in Poland had not one survivor at the end of the Holocaust. If you think about it, can we say that my grandfather was like a prophet? Was he wiser than the rest, more able to see the future--like Noah? Yet in the time of Noah, when he begged the people to change their lifestyle and warned them of the impending doom and danger they also considered him an old man who was an alarmist creating panic and terror for no reason.
On Shavout, when G-d transmitted the original messages and instructions on how to live through Moses, it’s almost like we’re getting another chance to hear it again, to make sense of it to embrace it and to live by the G-d’s teaching. G-d is speaking to us once again and calling us to a new awakening to act on His teachings. When you think about it, G-d is so patient with us because every year he keeps repeating the same message. The question is how much will we hear and how much can we share so that other’s eyes and ears will be opened to His wisdom and the Truth.
Just like my grandfather who tried to warn the townspeople about the writing on the wall, how are we supposed to interpret the divine teachings and bring them down into daily practical application? What is the best and most effective way of us not only individually internalizing and comprehending what we are supposed to do, but how do we then act like Moses as transmitters and messengers to those around us that we love and that we are responsible for such as our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and so on. Don’t we basically have the same opportunity that Moses did to be leaders and role-models as well as teachers to others of what we have been privileged to hear and understand? Together, let us live, learn, love and transmit the Torah.