Experiencing the Holiday of Shavuot
The Repairing Process, A Metaphor For Shavuot:
Imagine that you have just inherited a house. The side panels are beaten up from the wind. Walking into the back yard, it becomes pretty clear that some of the windows are going to need to be replaced. When you step up the front steps onto the deck, one of the steps breaks under your foot. Inside, the couches in the living room are worn out and barely staying together. In the dusty kitchen, you notice that the antique oven is rusted over and the table is barely standing on its three and a half legs. Topping it all off, there is a hole in the ceiling of the upstairs bedroom, which has resulted in the room becoming acquainted with all four of the seasons. With all the work that needs to be done, maybe it would have been better not to have been given the house at all.
Without the proper funds, there is not a chance that the house will be in livable condition. Out of nowhere you get a call from your Dad and he tells you that he is willing to back the project, on the condition that you do the work. Over the next few days you collect the supplies and commence the project. Every day you show up, and, little by little, what seemed at first to be a dilapidated mess, begins to look like a home. Some days a friend comes by to help, other days it is just you. Either way, each day there is clear progress. Whenever you feel like giving up you are able to look back at what the house looked like and how far it has come.
The last task is to get the electricity running; however this is a costly bit, so you call your Dad again. He has seen all the progress that you made and sends an electrician by to get everything running. Before turning on the lights for the first time you realize that there would be no better way of experiencing this moment than with your closest friends. At nightfall you and your companions flip on the switch for the first time. All of the panels are freshly painted and the windows are crystal clear. Instead of moldy chairs, there are couches. A smell of freshly baked Challah floats out of the kitchen and the fixed table is covered with an assortment of cheese cake. The ceiling has been fixed upstairs and the house is comfortably inhabitable. Moreover, it is a place that you are able to have guests.
Making It Practical, Shavuot Insights:
After the Jewish people had suffered years of forced labor coming out of Egypt, after Pesach (Passover) was a bit like inheriting a beat-up house. We have inherited our relationship with Hashem (G-d) from our forefathers; Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. This profound unity with Hashem has to be revealed from underneath the hardship and trauma of slavery. During the Counting of the Omer (the time in between Passover and Shavuot) is when we begin this process of repair. This is each individual’s process of cleansing and refining his or her emotional faculties. This procedure enables a person to be a proper vessel to receive the Torah.
Matan Torah (receiving the Torah) is the revelation from Hashem. It is only once we have prepared ourselves and made ourselves into vessels which are fit to receive this G-dly expression, that we actually do. By setting each of our individual houses in order, we receive this G-dly revelation. We are then able to go forth and truly affect change in the world by revealing that truly we are all part of a single Home.
While at Mayanot, I have felt a part of a single home and am very grateful for the experience of being here for the second time, for Shavuot, after learning at Mayanot for the last two years. I am very familiar with the process of repairing and rebuilding through receiving Torah, in my own life, and I hope we are all able to receive the Torah together this year.
Written by: Benjamin Shannon, Current Mayanot Men's Program Student