Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shavuot is NOW


Right after this Shabbat ends, the Jewisg holiday of SHAVUOT is starting. SHAVUOT stands for WEEKS. Why WEEKS ? 

With the holiday of Pessach, the Jews are entering a seven – week – cycle called the OMER PERIOD. For those seven weeks, we are counting the Omer and the counting is complete on Shavuot. 

In Judaism, the number 7 always stands for completion. Something is ready, complete and perfect. Just look at the creation of the world and G – d resting on the seventh day. His creation was complete and so is the Omer cycle on Shavuot. 

Furthermore, SHAVUOT also means OATHS. At Mount Sinai, the Jews gave the oath of living according to the Torah. Those of you who have some Talmudic knowledge: There is a Talmudic Tractate called SHAVUOT dealing with all different kinds of OATHS. 

More than 3000 years ago, the Jews received the Torah directly from G – d. However, the festival of Shavuot is not just another anniversary of this particular event. Until today the Jewish task is to relive the giving of the Torah. It is our duty on Shavuot to undergo the same excitement as our ancestors did at Har Sinai. It is not only them in the past receiving the Torah but each of us has to do the same today. I and you have to receive the same Torah again and again. We have to receive the Torah for ourselves. 

 The Torah as well as the Talmud Tractate Sotah 9 ff. teach that the Jews had to prepare themselves in order to receive the Torah. They had to cleanse their bodies but they also had to undergo a spiritual cleansing. 

The question is: How do we prepare ourselves for the upcoming Shavuot ? I went to Zfat in northern Israel until Friday morning. For Shabbat and the holiday I will be back in Jerusalem. However, does my brief vacation in Zfat stand for a perfect Shavuot preparation ? The answer is that I haven’t really started preparing anything. I may tomorrow, as then I am planning a visit at the grave of the ARI (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 1534 – 1572). 

Each of us is experiencing a different preparation. I am already happy to be in Zfat. Breathing some clean air, having a religious atmosphere and seeing some holy sites. There is no PERFECT preparation but each of us should take some time, sit down and think about how he is going to approach Shavuot. Not only Jews but maybe also Gentiles. The latter having the "Seven Noachide Laws" in mind.

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