The Story of Shavuot

The Story of Shavuot

Dawn of the sixth day of Sivan, in the year 2448 after the creation of the world.

Thunder and lightning rent the air, and the sound of the shofar was heard growing strangely louder and louder. All the people in the camp of Israel trembled.

Then all was quiet again. The air was very still. Not a sound was to be heard. No bird twittered, no donkey brayed, no ox lowed. Every living thing held its breath. Even the angels interrupted their heavenly praises. Everybody and everything kept silent . . . waiting.

Suddenly G‑d's mighty words were heard from one corner of the earth to the other:

"I AM G-D, YOUR G-D!"

One after another, G‑d proclaimed the Ten Commandments.

During the next forty days and nights, Moses was G‑d's disciple, learning all the Commandments, along with the proper meaning of the Torah which was to be handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation. Afterwards Moses wrote down on parchment all the five books of the Torah, word for word, from the "Bet" of Bereshit to the "Lamed" of Yisrael (the last word of the Pentateuch), as it was dictated to him by G‑d Himself.

Millions of Witnesses

G‑d gave the Torah in the presence of all Israel - six hundred thousand male adults, aged 20 to 60, many more older men, and, of course, women and children, together with a multitude of other peoples (erev rav). In all there were several million living witnesses who saw the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai!

Present also were all the Jewish souls who were ever to come down to live upon this earth. Every one of us then solemnly proclaimed naaseh v'nishma - we shall do and learn. Each one of us was made a party to that sacred covenant between G‑d and His people Israel.

The Midrash tells us:

Said Rabbi Yitzchak: The children of Israel should have received the Torah immediately upon their departure from Egypt, but G‑d said, "My children have had no convalescence after their bondage in Egypt from which they have just been freed, and cannot receive the Torah so soon." It is like a king whose son had just recovered from a serious illness, and his tutor said,

"Send your son to school." To which the king retorted, "My son has not convalesced at all, and you want him to immediately return to school? No, let him be on a healthy and plentiful diet for two or three months, recover his color and strength, and then he will return to school." 

So said the Holy One, blessed be He: "My children have not recovered yet their color and strength from their bondage. Let them convalesce for a few weeks with the manna, the well and the quails, And then I shall give them the Torah."

Here is a beautiful parable telling us of the tender mercies of our Father our G‑d who cared for us tenderly as a king cares for his only son recuperating from an illness.

But there is something more than that in this beautiful parable. It wasn't so much our physical condition that had to be considered as our spiritual state. Hundreds of years of Egyptian bondage, enslaved to a people that, despite their architectural prowess and military might, had no feelings, no consideration for human beings, no true ethical teachings or morals - such slavery must have made a deep scar upon our ancestors' moral standards. They had to be cleansed from the "bricks and mortar" of Egypt before they could receive the holy Torah.

The children of Israel understood their situation. They had been told that fifty days after their departure from Egypt they would receive the holy Torah and they knew they had to become worthy of that Divine gift -the most wonderful thing in the world. So they impatiently counted each day, trying to better themselves every day, to improve their conduct and moral standards, to rise higher and higher as the time of the giving of the Torah drew closer.

And G‑d Himself helped them to better themselves, as He always does. G‑d gave them a wonderful diet that was both a physical and spiritual diet. He rained bread from Heaven in the form of manna. He opened a fountain in the hard rock. He rained meat from the skies - the quails, and He showed them many other miracles any wonders. The children of Israel learned to recognize G‑d they saw that He can alter the course of nature for their sake; they realized that they were the chosen people to receive that wonderful gift - the Torah.

For forty nine days, or seven weeks, the children of Israel eagerly prepared themselves for that great event But the last three days before the giving of the Torah were days of the most careful self-examination and preparation. When the great moment of the giving of the Torah finally came, they were clean, pure and holy is body and soul, and ready to receive the Torah. Unanimously they proclaimed: "naaseh v'nishma! - We shall do and we shall hear!"

So must we be pure and clean, in body and soul, if we are to be worthy of the Torah, if we are to appreciate it's sacredness and live up to our name - "a kingdom of priests (G‑d's servants) and a holy nation."

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DEBRA CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE June 10, 2011

HAVE A VERY BLESSED SHAVUOT Reply

Anonymous Manchester, England May 10, 2010

G-d Himself only said the first two commandments Reply

Menachem Posner for Chabad.org October 6, 2009

RE: Shavuot While all holidays are times when we give to those less fortunate, and we thank G-d for his goodness. I am not sure why you would think that this theme is more prevalent on Shavuot than on other holidays. Reply

tzviaga Laguna Woods, CA.U.S.A. October 2, 2009

Shavuot I always thought that this was a time of charity and thanksgiving????? Reply

chanie ny, NY via kids.tzivoshashem.org April 25, 2006

love Your videos are fun and interesting to watch. They really make you love yiddishkait and give you a feeling of being proud to be Jewish.
THANK YOU! Reply