Shavuot is one of my favorite religious holidays, and I appreciate various elements of the chag: hearing the Ten Commandments sung proudly, chanting the tongue-twister "Akdamut" prayer, listening to the reading of the book of "Ruth," evening study sessions on various topics, and off course eating dairy foods. It seems that the one somber segment is the recitation of the Yizkor prayers.

This year was the first time that my friend S had to recite the Yizkor prayers, because her father died just two weeks ago. Although the man was not in the best of health, his death was unexpected and a shock. Sadly, I am already a veteran of the Yizkor prayers because my mother died in 1999 and my father died in 2011. So I gave her advice on how to handle this part of the Shavuot service.
Joining the "Yizkor Club" is not enjoyable, but for most of us it is a part of life, a part of aging. We deal with it as best we can, attending shul in our hometowns or wherever.

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This year Shavuot coincided with a horrific event in the United States, the mass shooting of 49 people in an Orlando, Florida night club called the Pulse. I could not help but think of this horrible crime and the senseless loss of life, perpetrated by a man with Muslim terrorist inclinations, severe hatred of gay and lesbian people, and an adoration of guns and their potential. I read about this in my newspaper, delivered to my doorstep, and I could not escape the shock and sorrow, even with such a cheery Jewish holiday to celebrate.


For my friend S, I suspect Shavuot will now have a tinge of sadness, for it is the holiday that falls just after her dad's death. And for everyone else, the disturbing and fearful massacre in Florida, which snuffed out more than four dozen lives, will also be somewhat linked in our minds with falling on Shavuot 5776. Perhaps this is unfair of me to link our religious holiday with a terrible secular event, but it will be hard to escape this feeling.

No matter what you think about people who are LGBQT, you should be saddened by their deaths and by the torturous injuries sustained by dozens of other people at the Pulse. No matter your support of the American Constitutional 2nd Amendment, you should realize the awful consequences of assault weapons in the hands of sick individuals. No matter whether or not the people killed and hurt at the Pulse are Jewish or other religions, these deaths impact my country and the global community in general.

May we not have to experience such terrifying losses of life again.

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