Monday, June 9, 2008


It is ironic that Shavuot is such a little-known holiday. Because in fact, Shavuot commemorates the single most important event in Jewish history -- the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Shavuot is the culmination of the seven-week-long "
counting of the Omer" that occurs following Passover. The very name "Shavuot" means "weeks," in recognition of the weeks of anticipation leading up to the Sinai experience. (Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known as "Pentecost," a Greek word meaning "the holiday of 50 days.")
3,300 years ago, after leaving Egypt on the night of Passover, the Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. There, the entire Jewish nation -- 3 million men, women and children -- directly experienced divine revelation:
God spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told you of His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets. (Deut. 4:12-13)
The giving of the Torah was an event of awesome proportions that indelibly stamped the Jewish nation with a unique character, faith and destiny. And in the 3,300 years since this event, Torah ideals - monotheism, justice, responsibility -- have become the
moral basis for Western civilization.

Perhaps the reason for the relative obscurity of Shavuot is because this holiday has no obvious "symbols" of the day -- i.e. no Shofar, no Sukkah, no Chanukah Menorah.
On Shavuot, there are no symbols to distract us from the central focus of Jewish life: the Torah. So how do we commemorate Shavuot? It is a widespread custom to stay up the
entire night learning Torah. And since Torah is the way to self-perfection, the Shavuot night learning is called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which means "an act of self-perfection on the night of Shavuot."
At synagogue services on Shavuot morning, we read the biblical
book of Ruth. Ruth was a non-Jewish woman whose love for God and Torah led her to convert to Judaism. The Torah intimates that the souls of eventual converts were also present at Sinai, as it says: "I am making [the covenant] both with those here today before the Lord our God, and also with those not here today." (Deut. 29:13)
Ruth has a further connection to Shavuot, in that she became the ancestor of King David, who was born on Shavuot, and died on Shavuot.
On Shavuot, it is customary to decorate the synagogue with branches and flowers. This is because Mount Sinai blossomed with flowers on the day the Torah was given. The Bible also associates Shavuot with the harvest of wheat and fruits, and marks the bringing of the first fruits to the Holy Temple as an expression of thanksgiving. (see Exodus 23:16, 34:22, Numbers 28:26)
There is a universal Jewish tradition of eating
dairy foods on Shavuot. The reason has been offered by many scholars, some of which are more convincing than others. We offer a selection:
The Biblical book Song of Songs (4:11) refers to the sweet nourishing value of Torah by saying: "It drips from your lips, like honey and milk under your tongue."
The verse in Exodus 23:19 juxtaposes the holiday of Shavuot with the prohibition of mixing milk and meat. On Shavuot, we therefore eat separate meals -- one of milk and one of meat.
Upon receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Jews immediately became obligated in the laws of Sh'chita -- slaughter of animals. Since they did not have time to prepare kosher meat, they ate dairy instead

In 1967, the Six Day War ended just a few days before Shavuot. Israel had reclaimed the Western Wall, and for the first time in 19 years Jews had access to the area surrounding the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. On Shavuot itself, the Western Wall became open to visitors, and on that one memorable day, over 200,000 Jews journeyed by foot to the Western Wall. (In Jerusalem, no cars or buses run on Jewish holidays.)
In subsequent years, this "pedestrian pilgrimage" has become a recurring tradition. Early on Shavuot morning -- after a full night of Torah learning -- the streets of Jerusalem are filled with tens of thousands of Jews walking to the Western Wall.
This tradition has biblical precedence. Shavuot is one of Judaism's three main pilgrimage festivals, where the entire nation would gather in Jerusalem for celebration and study.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Voice Of G-D

I want to share a situation that happened to my husband and I.

When my husband got his check from work, we were both in a bit of shock that it wasn't as much as we had planned. We are going on vacation in July, (which is the first one we've had in 6 years), so we wanted to save as much money as possible. Knowing that we would have to tithe and pay bills, it would leave us with just about zero for vacation. My husband and I haven't been tithing, but know we need to because we are robbing from G-d what is truly His in the first place. We could have again chosen to keep the money and take from Him what was His but we choose to give Hashem His 10% with a joyful heart.

As Jews, we give to people in need, so we thought we would just ask G-d where he wanted His money to go. I heard a still small voice that said one thing, but I wanted to hear what my husband heard before I said anything. I wrote down on a piece of paper what it was I heard and then asked my husband what he heard.

The awesome thing was that what I had heard G-d saying was something I would of never thought of, not because I didn't like the possibility, but my way of thinking is to choose food banks, homeless shelters, etc. But this time I heard something that was unfamiliar to me.
So I wrote it down and waited for my husband to tell me was he heard.
Out of his mouth came the same thing I had wrote down on my paper. The Friends of the IDF fund!!!

Oh my gosh... Please take hold of this. I know that G-d was just looking for us to be faithful to Him, but in that moment when my husband and I realized that the G-d of the heavens and earth was talking to the both of us about the same thing at the same time, we were in tears! Hashem is sooooo good! G-d inclines His ear to hear even the smallest prayer. There are a trillion people on this planet and G-d was listening and answering the prayers of two of His children!

I would encourage you to talk with G-d today because there is no prayer to small that He won't answer! Have a Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

tzara'as (Leprosy)

God instructed all the Jews that if someone has tzara'as - which is defined as leprosy or skin contamination - then he needs to temporarily live away from everyone else.
In order to understand why this was done, it's first important to know exactly what caused someone to be afflicted with tzara'as. This skin aliment appeared on those people who gossiped about someone else. When the Jews lived in Israel during the times we had the Holy Temple, when someone slandered another person, he could be afflicted with this aliment.

Perhaps the reason he needed to be segregated from everyone else comes down to this: Human beings really don't like taking responsibility for their errant actions. Let me explain. No one wants to be thought of as a bad person or one who wrongs others. So in an effort to avoid this, most people simply choose to rationalize their behavior to demonstrate that they were completely justified in what they did. Our reasoning tends to boil down to this: Yes I did it, but it's definitely not what it seems.

Maybe this is why God wants the person not to live amongst other Jews until his tzara'as goes away. It was done to prevent this person from committing additional sins by repeating his gossip in an effort to show why it wasn't really gossip in the first place.
And this is the lesson for all of us. We all have the temptation at times to try to explain away our errant behavior. The next time you do something to someone else that you really shouldn't have done, try to resist the urge to make everyone believe that you really didn't do anything wrong. Instead, take personal responsibility for what you did. This will not only make you feel great, but will also act as a powerful shield against compounding your initial mistake.

Reference, Aish.com