Stop and Take Stock of All Your Gifts

Holiday Insights
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Shavuot is a time of gifts.  Along with the Torah, the greatest gift Hashem gave us, He also gave us many other gifts. Every year, Shavuot comes, and these gifts are poured into us again for 24 hours.

There’s the mighty event of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, there’s Megillat Ruth, King David was born and passed away on Shavuot, and more.

I want to talk about ‘Stopping’. Shavuot is called ‘Atzeret’ which means to stop. Every holiday has plenty of things to do before and during the holiday. Pesach has massive preparations, from the cleaning and shopping to the Seder itself. Sukkot has building and decorating the Sukkah and getting the lulav and etrog. Chanukah has the candle lighting and the special doughnuts (Sufganiyot); Purim has the Megillah, Mishloach Manot and Matanot Laevyonim.

Shavuot has no special preparation (excluding the cheese cake that is really optional). You don’t need any special preparation for Shavuot!

You don’t need to go to the Synagogue to hear the 10 commandments, nor do you need to bake cheesecakes even if all your friends do. Shavuot is all about ‘stopping’!

The Netivot Shalom explains: In this same manner exactly Hashem says: “Don’t prepare anything special. Let’s take a break and recharge, I’ll understand you and you’ll understand me, I will strengthen and heal you and bring you gifts from heaven.”

Shavuot is a time of quiet; when Torah came to the world not one bird tweeted (nor did our cell phones or social media accounts)!

This day is meant to take stock of the gifts of Pesach and the counting up to receiving the Torah.

The Noam Elimelech says that a Torah Scroll has holy letters written in it. But the parchment itself is considered even holier as it encompasses the holiness of all the letters written in it. The same is with Shavuot; it’s like the parchment which encompasses the holiness of all the other holidays preceding it. Pesach preparations, checking for Chametz, burning the Chametz, Seder night, the intermediate Pesach days, counting the Omer, Lag Ba’omer, the light of the counting and of Rabbi Shimon; all of this is packed into Shavuot. Since this is the case, you don’t prepare anything; just stop and take it all in! Let Hashem help you absorb the treasures He’s giving you.

Your only preparation is to fashion yourself into a receptacle for all of Hashem’s gifts. But how do I do it, how do I fashion myself into a receptacle for blessing? How do I receive the Torah? “You accept by accepting”; you can become a receptacle of Hashem’s blessings by accepting upon yourself even a small resolution.

Before the receiving of the Torah, there was thunder and lightning and after there were voices and torches. Lightning lights up the sky for a flash, a torch lights up for a long time, so long as there’s fuel.  Before we received the Torah, there were flashes of light but after we accepted the Torah with the words “We will do and we will listen” that light became a sustained light like a burning torch. In this same manner our accepting of even the smallest resolution will bring us a sustained light of blessing which will remain with us.

The Rashbam wrote that every Shabbat we get an additional soul and after Shabbat it leaves, and therefore we sniff spices in Havdalah after Shabbat to revive ourselves from that loss. But why don’t we sniff spices after the holidays? The Rashbam says that the additional soul we get on the holiday stays with us and doesn’t leave so we don’t sense any loss.

May you have an amazing Shavuot full of Hashem’s gifts!

By R’ Zamir Cohen