Early Sunday morning, 49 innocent Americans in Orlando were slaughtered by an enemy whose sheer hate has driven genocidal massacres. A full week later the depths of the tragic news remains inadequately processed.
The terrorist executed his black evil in the wee hours of Shavuot morning. At that same time, many thousands were “burning the midnight oil” in synagogues around the country. The age-old tradition to remain awake the night prior to receiving The Torah was in full swing from coast to coast.
Passover and Hanukkah are universal. The High Holiday season ranks high on American Jewry’s calendar. But we must not ignore that the holiday that transformed the Hebrew slaves into the Nation of Israel, remains in large measure unknown.
The Bible records the exact date of Shavuot, “seven complete weeks” after Passover. It is the day that G-d gave the Torah to His newly redeemed Jewish people. Surprisingly, though, Shavuot – the primal source of everything Jewish – is considered by most as a “minor holiday.”
The night before her wedding, the light rarely goes out in the chambers of the bride. The lights of the hundreds of study halls that night of Shavuot were those of “the bride” — Knesset Yisroel. She was making her last preparations before her morning chuppah. For it is on Shavuot that we receive our marriage contract, The Torah, from G-d.
The Rambam, Maimonides, posits our state of existence as being held at all times in abeyance. There are global scales, he writes, good on one side and evil on the other. Each struggles to gain dominance. Whichever overpowers, tips the scale and triggers its side’s aspirations. Good brings good and the opposite is as true.
That early morning these scales sunk in the wrong direction. Re-calibration was needed. As this Jihadist swam in his vile black waters, Jews by the thousands immersed themselves in night long, Heavenly light. From a cosmic perspective, who is to know if this wasn’t the needed repudiation of everything the deluded killer represented.
Shavuot is the end of a seven-week holiday season that began at Passover. Passover celebrates the body of the Jew being freed. Shavuot marks the gift of our soul. The G-dly endowed capacity to bring His Infinitude into ourselves. This impossible feat is facilitated by Torah.
The bride connects at her very essence with her groom. Their oneness is inviolable. Brought alive each year, G-d’s gift of personal connection with each of us is renewed on Shavuot. Our soul carries the Infinite light of G-d and His Torah.
This oneness is the antidote to the horrors of our age. G-d’s sheer goodness and kindness is ours. We must continually work to bring it in ever deeper, making it more and more genuinely ours.
The secret of Shavuot beckons to us. On this holiday, alike each major festival, we observe Yizkor. We remember who we are, from whom we have come, and what is expected of us going forward.
Clearly, the eternal gift of Torah is worthy of major celebration. But not just for the two days on our Jewish calendar. Shavuot’s injection into our daily lives is best articulated in our holiest of prayers, The Shema; “Teach it to your children, you shall speak of it when you are at home, when you are walking on the road and when you lay down and when you rise.”
The gift of Torah is the indefatigable direct and personal connection between Jew and G-d. This oneness is a reality much mightier than any force that tries, or has tried, to sever it. Due to it, our present day enemies will join all who came before them. They will be laid to waste, thrown into the dustbin of history.
Making Shavuot a major holiday, every day of our year, will bring this promised victory ever closer and those scales will be tipped for good.