What a week. What a month. What a year.
War has broken out in Israel, unsettling the lives of millions of our brothers and sisters still reeling from the Lag B’Omer tragedy in Meron and on the heels of the year of the pandemic.
The Talmud notes that there are two sections in the Torah known as תוכחה, each containing a litany of curses. Both are read at significant points in the calendar, one – פרשת כי תבוא – shortly before Rosh Hashana, and the other – פרשת בחוקתי – shortly before Shavuot. The placement in the calendar implies the hope – expressed beautifully in the Talmud – that תכלה שנה וקללותיה תחל שנה וברכותיה, may the old year end with its curses and the new year begin with its blessings. The Talmud itself notes how Rosh Hashana is obviously a new year, while Shavuot serves more modestly as the new year for trees.
Beyond the trees, Shavuot has a fundamental similarity to Rosh Hashana. The task of the high holiday season is Teshuva, which has as a central component קבלה על העתיד, a commitment to fulfill G-d’s will more completely. Shavuot similarly commemorates the moment when the Jewish people made the ultimate קבלה על העתיד, undertaking to fulfill all of Hashem’s word by accepting the Torah.
In that light, this may be the critical ingredient of a turning point. A new year is not just about turning a page in a calendar. If it were, it would be somewhat superficial to expect that turning of a page to close the difficult chapter of the preceding year. Rather the new year comes with reflection, commitment, and change. Even the virtual experience of reading of the difficulties chronicled in the Torah can be a contributing factor to such reflection and to true commitment and change. How much more so when we experience it in real life.
As we move towards Shavuot with all the difficult experiences of this past year, month, and week, let us take a chance to reflect and to commit, to do better and to be better, to identify the gems and the perspective that these challenges have granted us – whether in our personal, familial, or spiritual lives – and truly turn a page, thus closing a chapter of great difficulty and gaining a new blessing for a new year.
From Yerushalayim, I wish you all the best for a wonderful Shabbos and Yom Tov, and share in your hopes and prayers for peace, consolation, and much Bracha.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer