The Declaration of Shavuous?
“and thou must also make clear to them the Laws and the Teachings and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the deeds that they are to do.” Exodus 18:20.
This is the time of the year when we see the beauty of Spring evolve and God is revealed to us through nature. We walk out of our homes and what hits us are the amazing colorful flowers, the lush green grass and the fragrant blossoming trees. There’s a clear blue sky and the bright sun illuminates everything. Even on a rainy day, which is a gift from God, we are still captured by what is growing all around us, and every year it all reappears exactly at this time. It’s not the handiwork of the gardeners it is the handiwork of God. It is His annual gift to us, just one of the many gifts God gives us. One of the many gifts that uplifts our spirits and our senses as we realize without a doubt God’s Mastery of the universe. Shortly it will be Shavuous which is referred to as the Festival of Reaping, the barley offering that was brought to the Temple, was also distributed to the poor. The day of bikkurim, commemorates the time when we bring to the Temple the two loaves of bread from the new grain harvest as a first offering. Shavuous is also referred to as the day of Atzeres or assembly, which commemorates an ingathering. Moses refers to the day on which the Torah was given as the Atzeres.(Deuteronomy 9:10) The Festival of Shavuous is literally called Weeks as we count the seven complete weeks from Passover. During this time we count the Omer in anticipation that Shavuous is approaching. We do not celebrate Shavuous in a specific month, rather it is the culmination of the fifty day period, the counting of the Omer. Shavuous commemorates the Revelation at Sinai. “And you shall declare on this very day.” Leviticus 23:21.
What are we declaring today in anticipation of the upcoming commemoration? How can we raise ourselves intellectually and spiritually this Shuvuous? While the sweetness of the Spring season enraptures our senses, we should ask ourselves these questions. This time before Shavuous can be used for reflection and positive self-introspection if we use the time appropriately. It is not only a time to make simchas, wind down the school year and make summer plans. All of that planning takes us away from thinking about how we can elevate ourselves and revive our true purpose in life. What is our “derech” our way in life? Our culture does a very good job of distracting a person by keeping one away from their true “way in life”. Our way is in life, not of life. …make known to them the way in which they are to walk… A way “in” indicates more depth as within something, an involvement in something, whereas way “of” life implies coming out or away from something. When Bnei Yisroel were given the Torah through Moses, they were to learn and live in it, live in the ways, the laws and in the teachings of the Torah. “but ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation.” Exodus 19:6. The laws and teachings are what provide us with our derech, our way, our foundation in life. Obviously Judaism has a very different meaning of derech or way in life. Accepting the way in the Torah means accepting our mission, which is that all human existence is dependent on our covenant with God. We are the light unto all the nations. What do we do in our daily life that sanctifies God’s name? How do we interact with other Jews and with gentiles that creates a positive example that we as Jews serve and fear God?
In Egypt everything we had was taken from us and we were spiritually diminished. We survived as lowly slaves to the Egyptians who knew nothing of the God that created man. They believed in their own warped, corrupt ideas that they attached to their own fake gods. They lived evil, wicked lives, and still the contaminated nation of Egypt reigned over everyone. Our lives were pathetic and low. How could we restore ourselves back as the descendants of Abraham, the descendents of truth? God freed us from the dungeon of Egypt by taking us out and by taking us to him as His nation. God strengthened us and gave an opportunity to acquire wisdom and understanding through His Torah. At Mount Sinai we declared: “All that God has spoken we will do.” Exodus 19: 8. Justice and kindness would rule the world because we would be examples of this, as a holy nation. When God chose us we accepted our responsibility as partners in His covenant, His covenant of truth. At the Revelation at Sinai, through Moses God gave us the foundation of our life, and for all future generations. We were crowned as His bearers of this divine mission. We are His nation, He is our God. All gifts to us.
Before Shavuous think about making a commitment to Torah study “the laws and teachings of the Torah”. By doing this a person will develop a better, “clearer” understanding of the commandments. Intellectually and philosophically one will develop a clearer understanding of “the way in which we are to walk and the deeds that we are to do”.