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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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Shavuot 1st Day
Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

On the 6th Sivan of the year 2448 from creation (1313 BCE), seven weeks after the Exodus, G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai. The entire people of Israel (600,000 heads of households and their families), as well as the souls of all future generations of Jews, heard G-d declare the first two of the Ten Commandments and witnessed G-d's communication of the other eight through Moses. Following the revelation, Moses ascended the mountain for 40 days, to receive the remainder of the Torah from G-d.

At Sinai, G-d rescinded the "decree" and "divide" (gezeirah) that had been in force since the 2nd day of creation separating the spiritual and the physical into two hermetic worlds; from this point on, "the higher realms could descend into the lower realms, and the lower could ascend to the higher." Thus was born the "mitzvah" -- a physical deed that, by virtue of the fact that it is commanded by G-d, brings G-dliness into the physical world.

Links: The Torah: an Anthology
The Giving of the Torah

David, a descendent of Judah the son of Jacob as well as of Ruth, a Moabite convert to Judaism, was anointed King of Israel by Samuel in 878 BCE. All future legitimate kings of Israel were David's descendents, as will be Moshiach (the messiah), who will "restore the kingdom of David to its glory of old."

David fought many wars, defeating Israel's enemies and securing and expanding its borders. He conquered Jerusalem, purchased the Temple Mount from its Yebusite owner, and prepared the foundation for the Holy Temple (which was built by his son, King Solomon). David served as the head of the Sanhedrin and the foremost Torah authority of his generation; he is also the "sweet singer of Israel" who composed the Book of Psalms that for 28 centuries has embodied the joys, sorrows and yearnings of the Jewish people.

King David passed away on the 6th of Sivan of the year 837 BCE, age 70.

Links: King David

During the first crusade (see "Today in Jewish History" for Iyar 8), the Jews of Cologne, Germany chose to be killed rather than convert to Christianity. This was the case, during the first crusades, for many of the Jews who were given the choice between being killed or being baptized. Most of those who converted continued to practice Judaism in secrecy and, one year later, were permitted by Henry IV to openly return to Judaism.

In 1734, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov ("BeSHT", 1698-1760), who up until that time had lived as a hidden tzaddik, began to publicly disseminate his teachings. While adding nothing "new" to Judaism, he re-emphasized truths and doctrines that had been buried under the hardships of exile: the immense love that G-d has for every Jew, the cosmic significance of every mitzvah a person performs, the divine meaningfulness that resides in every blade of grass, in every event, and in every thought in the universe. He spoke to the downtrodden masses and to the aloof scholars, giving meaning to their existence, and thus joy, and thus life. Many disciples came to imbibe the "inner soul" of Torah from him, and the new movement came to be known as "Chassidism."

Rabbi Israel passed away on the 6th of Sivan of 1760, and was succeeded (one year later, on the first anniversary of his passing) by his disciple, Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch.

Links: Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

Laws and Customs

The Torah reading for the 1st day of Shavuot is from Exodus 19-20, which recounts the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai (see "Today in Jewish History") and includes the "Ten Commandments" proclaimed at Sinai that encapsulate the entire Torah.

Links:
The Shavuot Torah Readings
About the Ten Commandments

The Lubavitcher Rebbe urged that all children -- including infants --should be brought to the synagogue on the 1st day of Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments in re-enactment of the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. Our sages relate that when G-d came to give the Torah to the people of Israel, He asked for a guarantee that that they will not forsake it. "The heaven and the earth shall be our guarantors," said the Jews, but G-d replied that "they will not last forever." "Our fathers will guarantee it," said the people, but G-d said that "they are busy." It was only when we promised that "our children will guarantee it" that G-d agreed, "These are excellent guarantors."

Link: Our Children, Our Selves

It is the custom in many communities to read the biblical Book of Ruth, which tells the story of Ruth, a Moabite princess--and ancestress of King David--who converted to Judaism.

Links:
Text of Book of Ruth and its connection to Shavuot
How Does One Convert to Judaism?

It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. Traditional Shavuot dairy foods include cheesecake and blintzes.

Links
Why we eat dairy foods on Shavuot
Shavuot recipes

Daily Thought

A true master of life
never leaves this world
—he transcends it,
but he is still within it.

He is still there to assist
those who are bonded with him
with blessing and advice,
just as before, and even more so.

Even those who did not know him
in his corporeal lifetime
can still forge with him an essential bond.

The only difference is in us:
Now we must work harder to connect.