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The Secret Of The Festivals

Shavuos takes place fifty days after Pesach. We count the Omer for 49 days from Pesach to Shavuos.

Pesach as we have learned is the notion of escaping bondage and breaking personal boundaries.

Shavuos is the celebration of the time at which the Torah was given to the Jewish nation on Mount Sinai. [166]

This was a unique moment in time, the only occasion on which there has been a revelation of G-dliness to a vast group of people. There have been many individuals who claim to have had sensory contact with the Almighty. Perhaps they have. Clearly there is always room in such cases for skepticism.

At that moment in history three million people experienced something beyond comparison which has been carefully recorded and reproduced from generation to generation from the time of the giving of the Torah.

In fact we have an uninterrupted chain of testimony commencing from the three million people who experienced this incident.

Moshe took six hundred thousand males together with their women and children out of Egypt, into the desert, out of bondage, breaking all boundaries to do so.

Forty-eight days later, he was told to prepare everybody for the fact that Hashem was going to appear.

Three days before the Torah was given, the forty-eighth day, the Jews prepared themselves for what was to be one of the most cataclysmic events in human history.

On the sixth of Sivan, amidst thunder, lightning and every imaginable backdrop all three million people heard the Ten Commandments. [167]

These same Ten Commandments are read in synagogue every Shavuos.

What happened the day the Torah was given changed the effect of human behavior for all time.

Prior to the giving of the Torah, that which was spiritual was spiritual and that which was physical remained physical; there was no conjunction between the two. Now, for the first time since creation, mankind was able to bring down into physicality that which was spiritual. [168]

A shattering corollary can be deduced from this astonishing fact; not only can objects be infused with the spiritual but the spiritual can actually be effected by what is done in the physical.

Neshomos can literally change the course of what is to happen according to the way in which they respond to the mitzvos.

For the first time in history Hashem commanded a nation to keep six hundred and thirteen mitzvos and learn His newly revealed Torah. The astonishing result is that the behavior of the neshomos orchestrates the present and the future of everything alive on the globe. [169]

Accordingly, when a Jew puts on tefillin, the mere act of putting on that tefillin effects spiritual change.

The Rebbe in many of his letters repeatedly points out that a person can improve the berachos (blessings) which flow to him by his actions. [170]

These of course relate to performing mitzvos.

These physical activities of the Jew at a personal level effect a change for him as well as generally in the spiritual dimension.

If a Jew eats kosher for example, eating a cow which eats the grass which is grown by the ground; the cow, the grass and the ground are elevated by the Jew using that food to nourish his body to learn Torah and do mitzvos. [171]

Physical activity effects a spiritual result.

So it is generally that neshomos cause a change in physicality which effects spirituality which fascinatingly enough then can change physicality again.

Indeed, when Israel behaves in accordance with Torah and mitzvos we have peace and plenty in the world. History can be studied as a reflection of Jewish activity; in times of Jewish integrity the world moves forward in harmony. When Jews behave badly the world suffers.

What are the dynamics of this?

There are 248 limbs and 365 sinews in the human body (see Building Block no. 5). Just as they need exercise and blood to sustain and keep them healthy so the limbs and sinews of the world are sustained by the exercise of mitzvos and the life blood of Torah.

By our learning the Torah and keeping the mitzvos we draw down G-dliness into the physical so sustaining the world.

It is this very power to bring down the spiritual and infuse the physical which from then on became the mission of the Jewish nation.

The ultimate achievement will be to fulfill G-d's purpose in creating the physical world. That purpose as set out previously, is to make a dwelling place for Him in the lowest of all worlds - the physical. [172]

This awesome power was given to us at Mt. Sinai and this is what we celebrate on Shavuos.

When finally the job is complete, when all physicality has been soaked to saturation with G-dliness, Moshiach will be revealed. Then G-dliness will be as evident and revealed as sunshine and warmth are today and Israel will have completed Hashem's intent for Creation.

There is a second aspect to our celebration of the giving of the Torah.

This second aspect somehow escapes most people.

Even when Jews learn Torah in depth there seems to be a problem converting the principle we will now discuss into daas (see Building Block no. 3).

This is so even though many have read and heard the precept.

Let us begin with the simple proposition; the Torah, being the wisdom of Hashem and His truth, is eternal.

Doesn't sound too difficult?

The Torah applies in each generation, to every Jew, every day.

Obviously, at its simple level this means there can be no change in our everyday laws of Shabbos, Kashrus and all those matters which legally separate us from the rest of society.

At a deeper level the concept is much more exciting.

Just as the Torah applies in general to every Jew, each week's Sedra (portion) applies specially in that week.

Indeed each days portion applies to that day! [173]

So for example, when we learn the day's Torah portion telling of the binding of Isaac by Abraham, the opportunity for the spiritual potential is there for each Jew on that day to achieve a level of self sacrifice. This can be at a spiritual or physical level.

Deeper still, equipped with this secret, when a Jew learns that Hashem appeared to Abraham he can check what Abraham was doing to merit the revelation. He can then be certain that, because of this principle that the Torah is eternal and applicable to every Jew, he could invoke the same revelation as Abraham - providing he satisfied the same conditions. [174]

Again, this will be easiest in the week of the relevant portion. Suddenly therefore every Jew has a map!

Everyday is charted by Torah at a level of potential. Tuning in to the plan allows for sense to be made from confusion, music to be separated from static.

As mentioned repeatedly "daas" in these concepts requires personal achievement rather than outside instruction.

However, when a Jew learns there is treasure at home, he can at least make the decision of whether to dig for it.

On Shavuos those who have been digging, (and finding, as every Jewish excavator does), come together to celebrate the fact that we were given life's precious blueprint and exalt in its contents - each man at his level.

Footnotes:

  1. (Back to text) See Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch 494:1.

  2. (Back to text) See Exodos 19:16, 20:15.

  3. (Back to text) See for example Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 1, p. 40ff.

  4. (Back to text) See for example Sefer HaMaamarim Melukot Vol. 1, p. 14 in explanation of the Midrash "Know what is above you".

  5. (Back to text) See for example Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 7, p. 180.

  6. (Back to text) See Igros Melech Vol. 1, p. 320.

  7. (Back to text) See Tanya, Chapter 33.

  8. (Back to text) See HaYom Yom, Entry 2, 3 Cheshvan.

  9. (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 1, p. 23ff.
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