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Home » Shavuot

Shavuot the Festival of Weeks

Submitted by on November 12, 2004 – 5:52 pmNo Comment | 962 views

Sunday, May 27, marks the beginning of Shavuot, the Jewish festival of weeks. Its name reflects the seven-week period that commences on the second night of Passover and concludes on the first night of this festival. During this time the Jewish ancestry journeyed from Egypt to Sinai and prepared to receive the ten commandments.

This seven-week period is marked in modern times by a ritualized daily count, symbolic of the ancient Jewish count. When the ancient Jews left Egypt they were informed that G-d would appear to them in seven weeks and would give them the ten commandments. They greeted this news with exultation and initiated a daily count to mark each of the forty-nine days in loving anticipation.

When I was younger I was sent away to a boarding school. Like most students, I would anxiously await my parents’ periodic visits. My time with my parents was precious and I cherished every moment. I anticipated their arrival for weeks in advance. First I would count the weeks, then the days, then the hours and finally the minutes.

As I count the seven weeks today, I reflect upon the counting experience of my youth. I can almost sense the excitement of my ancestors as they counted the forty-nine days. I can almost feel the thrill with which they anticipated the momentous event.the festival of weeks

That event of that momentous day has withstood the tests of time. More then three thousand years have passed during which Jews have lived in almost every country throughout the world. They have come to adopt the vestiges of many foreign cultures, both modern and ancient. Yet their only enduring culture has been that of the ten commandments.

Jews have always pointed to their observance of those commandments as indicators of their success. The prophets of old exhorted their people to hold fast to their faith and observance in order to merit blessing and avert judgement.

The secret ingredient that has enabled Jewish survival was their observance of the ten commandments.

At times Jews have lagged and at times they have thrived but throughout they have remained in vibrant existence. Though they have experienced their share of sorrow, they have also enjoyed the benevolence of G-d’s kindness.

G-d is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He remembers good deeds and forgets sins. G-d struck a covenant with the Jewish people. You observe my commandments and I will shower you with blessing. Looking back, we know that he has been more kind to us then we to him.

For this we are forever grateful. At Sinai G-d initiated two kinds of relationships the Jewish people. On the one hand, he designated them to be his servants, called upon to obey his commands. On the other hand, he chose them to be his children, to shepherd them in love across the plains of history. There were high times and there were low times, peaks and valleys, but his devotion has remained constant.

The Sinai experience is also seen as a wedding. G-d, as groom, married the Jewish people, his bride. This festival marks their anniversary. It is a time for Jews to celebrate their relationship with G-d. When couples celebrate their anniversary they remember their history. They don’t block out the bad times and remember only the good. They reflect on the good times and bad. The success of the relationship celebrated on an anniversary is in the reciprocal bond that overcame all challenges, the connection that endured despite the difficulties.

That is the mark of an anniversary. This is the marvel of a relationship. And this is celebrated during the festival of weeks that marks the 3334’th Jewish wedding anniversary.

A final thought.

Anniversaries are not only a celebration of the past they are a time for reflection upon the future. My own personal mentor, Rabbi Mendel Schneerson of Lubavitch – a world renown spiritual leader, always taught that one never looks back to the past – unless with the purpose of applying its lessons to the future. Indeed, this holiday marks not only the success of our past, but the lessons we learn for our future.

G-d has remained loyal to the Jewish nation throughout its history, despite their periodic abandonment of his tradition and commandments. Surely he expects our loyalty in return. When we are faced with tragedy and disappointment we often turn to G-d in complaint.

“Why do I always suffer,” we lament “can’t you ever pick on anyone else?”

It is right of a child to demand from a parent. But it is wrong of a slave to expect everything whilst giving little in return.

Let us resolve in times of difficulty to turn to G-d in loyal devotion. Let us increase our commitment to his commandments and intensify our relationship. Let us remember not only his promises, but also our vows.

Let us build a vessel into which he can pour our blessing. Those vessels are our good deeds.

Our observance of his commandments creates the vessel. Our constant loyalty even in times of crises will deem us worthy of such blessing.

Happy festival of Weeks.

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