Message from our Rabbi: Shavuot 5780-2020

 

On the second day of Pesach we start to count the Omer. We count 7X7 weeks until 49 days, on the 50th day we celebrate Shavuot.

In the Kabalah we have a certain power that we connect to every day of Omer counting, every Sefira, as they are called makes us connect with something within us that we want to get better at, something we want to fix about ourselves in order to be better people when we get to Shavuot.

There is another custom that is practiced in the weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, reading the Pirkei Avot, which translates to English as Chapters of the Fathers. It is a compilation of the ethical teachings Rabbinical Jewish tradition. Because of its contents, the name is sometimes given as Ethics of the Fathers. Pikei Avot is unique in that it is the only tractate of the Mishnah dealing solely with ethical and moral principles. Pikei Avot has 6 chapters and we read one chapter on every Shabbat between Pesach and Shavuot.

All these customs and traditions are put in place for us to build up to something big, the greatest and most important event in the Jewish history, the receiving the Torah! This is not just a book of laws or rules but our declaration of independence, from this point on, we became the nation of the Jewish people, this is the first true bond and covenant we have with God, the Torah and all of us as a nation, all three of us are one as the holy Zohar tells us “Kudsha be’rich hu, Oraita veyisrael kula chad” (God, the Torah and Israel are one).

In many Rabbinic texts this is described as a wedding, not only the original giving of the Torah on mount Sinai but also each and every year when we celebrate Shavuot we are “marring” into this sanctuary covenant again, we are saying that we still want to be part of it and we chose to continue it. Some communities even have the custom to read a Shtar Tnai’im ve’Ketubah, composed by the famous Kabbalist Rabbi Israel Najara, which is a kind of marriage contract, similar to what’s read at weddings but written in way that it’s between us and God. It’s like a version of “renewing the vows” that many couples do after years of being together, we need to remind ourselves every now and then that this is still relevant for us and we want to be part of this ancient covenant.

So when we prepare for this Holiday, we must remember first the preparation part. Shavuot is also the Yartzeit of the holy Ba’al shem tov, the founder of Hassidism, so in his memory I want to add a famous saying, Hassidim used to say that ‘the perpetration for the Mitzva is greater than the Mitzva itself’, if we really take the time to prepare with all our hearts, tackling all our negative behaviors to the deepest part of our souls so that we really become better people, we love each other more, care for each other and truly become one, the same way it was back then, thousands of years ago at amount Sinai as Rashi tells us, ke’ish echad b’lev echad, like one person with one heart.