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Parshat - Bemidbar Shavuot

Thursday, 17 May, 2018 - 3:10 pm

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We are about to celebrate a great, joyous and uplifting three-day weekend. Shabbat is immediately followed by the Holiday of Shavuot, the celebration of the Giving of the Torah. We take time off work, we pray and sing praises to Hashem, we relax, eat festive meals including cheese-cake and meat (not in the same meal, of course), and spend at least one night in Torah study. The traditional blessing for this Holiday is: May you receive the Torah with joy and internalize it. The day of Shavuot is referred to in the Torah as “the wedding day” between Hashem and the Jewish people, so it is a day of great joy. In fact, it is one of the few days on the calendar when we are not allowed to fast under any circumstances.

Let’s stop to think about this for a moment. What exactly are we celebrating? What is the Torah? Most people associate the Torah with a set of rules, 613 Mitzvot to be exact, plus seven Rabbinic laws, each of these containing untold numbers of details. To follow the Torah means to be restricted from many things that the rest of the world does every day, and to be obedient to Hashem in a way that impacts every aspect of our lives. If we had not received the Torah, would our lives not have been much easier? We would not have this “yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven” and all the restrictions that it implies. So what are we so happy about?

Think about a wedding. It is the happiest day in the couple’s life, and the celebration is like no other. Many guests come and dance and celebrate with the bride and groom, with lavish food and drink and musicians, flowers and so much more. What exactly are they celebrating? Until now they have each been free to live as they wish. They could go where they wanted, when they wanted. They could eat whatever and whenever they felt like it, dress as they wish, travel anytime to anywhere without having to consult with a partner. Now after the wedding, they will be restricted in all those areas and more. Everything they do, they will have to consider how it impacts their spouse and then their kids. So what are they so happy about?

The answer, of course, is that they are creating a relationship, a bond that will bring true satisfaction to their lives. To love and to be loved, to share ups and downs, and to create new life that will continue the chain of humanity into the next generation. All of these “restrictions” are actually bringing new meaning to life. While it is true that they will be facing a much more controlled existence, at the wedding we all celebrate the relationship and the value it brings to the couple, their future family and their loved ones. We recognize that the restrictions are in fact the springboard for a truly meaningful life.

That is Shavuot. Hashem created this world as a place where He is concealed. Without the concealment, we would not have free choice. As stated in Kabbalah and Chassidus, it was necessary for Hashem to hide His light in order to allow for the limits and division that define our material world. Hashem could have left it at that and never allowed us, finite physical humans, to connect to the infinite. Instead Hashem chose to have a relationship with us and allow us to have a relationship with Him. What greater joy can there be than that of knowing that we have the ability to break through the concealment and bond with the source of all life. Yes, we are restricted in what we do and how we live, but that all brings true meaning to our lives. This is the greatness of the Giving of the Torah, the day that we are given the opportunity to have a direct relationship with our Creator. Each Mitzvah that we do and each forbidden act we refrain from doing, strengthens that relationship and lifts us out of our limited selves and connects us to the infinite. Now that is something to celebrate!

I invite you to enhance your Shavuot experience by joining us for the many celebrations that we offer at Chabad. May you receive the Torah with great joy, and internalize it.

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