The time between Passover and Pentecost is special. Not something factual that can be explained, but an experience. The mix of mourning and joy, the changes of season and counting of days create a sense of anticipation.
What with the Exodus story behind us, breaking out of winter and mold, leaves us wondering into what then shall we step. Traditionally, of course, the Children of Israel received the Torah at Sinai on proto-Pentecost. I am not certain they knew what was coming! So God gave them what He demanded, to create character and commitment before entering the Promised Land of Israel. What might happen to us?
On Passover we read the Song of Songs of Solomon, a custom probably linked originally to the concept of Spring season, a recurring theme in the text. We delve in these ancient words and begin to feel excitement of sunshine, romance and firstfruits. But the text also instills in us a feeling of the unknown, and ambiguous things. He comes and goes, He gives and takes away. Yet we are full of desire.
In his famous essay Kol Dodi Dofek (roughly translated “Hark, my beloved knocketh”), Rabbi Soloveitchik deals with concepts of history and divine providence, meaningful existence and tragedy, through the Song. His God of Israel is not entirely interventional, nor abstaining always. Like the Lover, in a dream, coming and then gone. In light, our existence becomes meaningful when we respond by embracing truth, calling and morality.
This is an impressive picture of days lived approaching Shavuot. Depending on sustenance, you would stay awake all night for study, meditation and prayer… Perhaps in an ambiguous and dreamy state of consciousness? And then, we are led to the mystical reading of Ruth. Ruth continues the motif of harvesting, anticipation and love in the middle of the night. The message is now that ambiguity changes into a state of fulfillment: Ruth reached into the night, laid upon the firstfruits, to cross her borders for the Promised Land.
In broader terms, may we learn to anticipate promise and nothing short of actual fulfillment, for familial peace, societal restoration and personal revelation. Character anticipates redemption. Pentecost is a reminder to catch sight of destiny and yet take hold of it.