Living in the Holy Land has long been our dream, and we never fail to appreciate its fulfillment. Among our favorite benefits is the thrill and wonder of being privileged to celebrate the chagim in the holiest place on earth, and thereby develop a deeper appreciation for each and every Yom Tov.
Sadly, Shavuos is the only holiday that has at times fallen somewhat short of our expectations. Unlike Pesach and Sukkos, which are sufficiently extended despite being of somewhat shorter duration than in chutz la’aretz, Shavuos in Eretz Yisrael is only one day long. Besides which, the men and older boys traditionally stay awake the entire night and subsequently sleep a significant portion of the following day. So Z’man Matan Toraseinu, arguably the most important day of the Jewish year, could conceivably be renamed ¨Blink and You Miss it!¨
The length of the holiday continued to bother me – until two years ago, when my husband invited his entire shiur to spend Shavuos with us. Then I was beyond grateful that this sometimes-maligned holiday lasts only a single solitary day! We, b¨H, had a beautiful Yom Tov together, and then the boys were blessedly on their way back home.
This past Shavuos was exponentially more memorable, but not only because it was preceded by Shabbos this time and my husband invited the boys once again.
I knew that a two-day Shavuos would present additional challenges, so I planned my menus and did my shopping well in advance. But nothing prepared me for what came next. As the well-known Yiddish expression reminds us, Der mensch tracht un G-tt lacht – man toils and G-d laughs.
My father, z’l, had been in and out of the hospital for a number of months, and had recently been transferred to a smaller medical facility where we hoped he would regain his strength. That was the first manifestation of this irrefutable truth.
The fridge was stocked to capacity, the pantry was practically bursting at the seams, and I was ready to get to work. Lights, camera, action! Or not.
When I got into bed on Wednesday night, my plans for the busy day ahead were all in place, lined up neatly in perfect formation. But suddenly something went horribly wrong with the script.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, we were rudely awakened by my sister’s urgent phone call.
¨I just received a summons from the hospital. They won’t tell me what happened with Tatty. They just said that all of us should get there immediately!¨
On autopilot, we threw on some clothes and raced out the door. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
By the time we arrived at the hospital huffing and puffing, some 45 minutes later, my mother and siblings were already there. One fleeting look at their tear-stained faces confirmed our darkest fears and premonitions.
But Tatty… Our wonderful long-suffering Tatty looked so peaceful and relaxed. After all those challenging weeks, months, and years of decline, he finally was out of his misery and pain. Although I spontaneously burst out crying that my beloved Tatty was no more, part of me acknowledged that positive development as well.
The next few hours were a whirlwind of making funeral arrangements, notifying family and friends, and comforting one another as we said our tearful good-byes to our dear father.
Shavuos? Shabbos? Not even on our radar screens.
There was no time to return home to shower and change. After the chevra kadisha arrived, we took a few moments to compose ourselves and drink in some fresh air in the grassy little park across the street. Then we proceeded to the funeral home and began our journey to aveilus. We tore kriah, said Tehillim, asked mechila from our adored patriarch and bid him farewell as he left this earthly existence for his exalted seat near the kisei hakavod.