Shavuot Tips

May 3, 2016

The three pilgrimage festivals commemorate and celebrate our relationship with the Creator and the miracles He has performed for us throughout the ages. The prayers we recite on these holidays reflect our recognition and appreciation of G-d’s omnipotence and ultimate kindness manifested at these periods in history.

The Amidah/Silent prayer that we offer during every Tefilla throughout Shavuot, Pesach and Sukkot contain much of the same content. After the opening three blessings the prayers continue – “אתה בחרתנו מכל העמים… וקדשתנו במצותיך – G-d, You have chosen us from all of the nations in the world… And You have sanctified us with your Mitzvot.”

The phrase “You have sanctified us with your Mitzvot” needs clarification. How does the performance of Mitzvoth sanctify us? In fact, in many blessings that we recite-“אשר קדשנו במצותיו – That He has sanctified us with His Mitzvot”. If we understand this concept, it will add meaning to every Yom Tov that we celebrate not to mention many of the brachot we recite daily.

One approach that explains  “You have sanctified us with your Mitzvot” is that since Mitzvot are commanded by G-d, and G-d is the King of Kings our performance of these mitzvot are a connection to eternity and divinity. Therefore, every Mitzvah elevates because it is living life with G-dly direction.

The Etz Yosef advances a different thought  and remarks: G-d’s laws are unlike the laws of human kings and governments. When a government passes a law, it is legislated for the benefit of the nation as a whole. For example, one pays taxes for the benefit of the society. The laws of Hashem, Mitzvot, are not only for the benefit of society, but for the growth, purification, and benefit of the person fulfilling the law as well. Our sages taught: לא נתנה תורה אלא לצרף את הבריות- The Torah was given in order to refine humanity. In effect, putting on Tefillin not only fulfills a Torah commandment, it also benefits the person spiritually as well. The same is true for Kashruth, Shabbat, Mikveh, etc.

This is what we celebrate on all of the holidays, especially on Shavuot. For it is on Shavuot 3327 years ago that we cried out נעשה ונשמע- We will do and we will listen, and the Torah was transmitted to The People of Israel at Sinai. The world with Torah and Mitzvot in it has never been the same since.