Holiday Thoughts

The Inner Dimension of Shavuot

A selection of insights and essays on the nature and significance of Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah.

11 Shavuot Myths and Misconceptions
Ready to challenge some things you think you always knew? Let's go!
Of Despots and Diets
Historically, revolutions depose those who deny people freedom and replace them with themselves, until new revolutionaries come along and keep the violent circle going.
The Party at Sinai
When we think about spiritual experiences, we picture prayer, meditation, or perhaps a solitary walk in nature. Yet that is not how the Torah describes the Jewish people’s experience at the greatest Divine revelation in history, the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
A Four-Step Program to Shavuot
The four-step program presented here in preparation for Shavuot teaches us to channel four human traits—brazenness, ambition, decisiveness and endurance—to good purpose.
The Printing Press
Were many more Torah books authored because the printing press was invented, or was the printing press invented because G‑d knew that Torah scholars were poised to write many more books?
Above and Below, United
One shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the Torah and the world are separate domains
It's Easy for You Rabbi, You Were Born Religious
It’s an argument I hear all the time. People will approach me and attempt to explain to me exactly why they can’t accept more Judaism into their lives: because they just weren’t born into it.
Walking the Distance, Feeling the Closeness
The Tahaluchah Experience
It’s Yom Tov, and scores of Chabad chassidim are leaving the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn on foot—some walking as far as Queens and Upper Manhattan! No, it’s not some fitness craze. It’s Tahaluchah.
Why Don't We Recite the Ten Commandments Every Day?
And why are they so special in the first place?
If the Ten Commandments are so special, why don’t we recite them every day?
Seeing the Sounds @Sinai
Was the medium the real message of the Ten Commandments?
What was the real point of the Ten Commandments—what was said, or how?
Eating at Mount Sinai
Jews, food, and the giving of the Torah
There’s no such thing as a Jewish event without food, right? So why should the giving of the Torah at Sinai be an exception? An analysis of the celebratory feast at Sinai.
Open the Book
We are about to celebrate Shavuot and I’m told it is the Season of the Giving of the Torah. But isn’t there another holiday when we celebrate with the Torah?
From Barley to Wheat
Is there such a thing as bad art? Amoral logic? The 20th century has settled the question once and for all, driving home the truth embodied by the "Wheat Harvest Offering" of biblical times
What Makes a Marriage Tick?
Newlyweds think the question doesn't apply to them and never will: they are the first to discover marriage and the final authorities on it too.
The Philosophy of Sleep
Why did the Jews go to sleep the night before getting the Torah? “Because sleeping on Shavuot night is sweet, the night is short, and the mosquitoes did not bite!” Is there a deeper meaning lurking behind this odd Midrash?
Yes & No
Can there be a relationship which is defined by what it is not, rather than what it is? Actually, every marriage starts as such, and our relationship with G-d is no exception.
The Fiftieth Miracle
Miracles are a concession to the human need to see things from a different perspective in order to apprehend what they've already seen. Shavuot is when G-d believes in us enough not to indulge it
A Deep Reason to Eat Cheesecake
What's behind the custom of eating dairy products on Shavuot? I'm not complaining, I love cheesecake - I'm just looking for a deep spiritual excuse to eat more.
Free Trial Period
It was the commercial that first attracted me. Then there were the bonus gifts, and by the time my free-trial period was up I'd forgotten that my credit card was being billed monthly...
Of Life and Logos
Does Shavuot not seem somewhat orphaned and bereft of imagery? What prominent symbol do we hold aloft to represent the season of the Giving of the Torah?
Renewing Wedding Vows
Recently, renewing wedding vows is very much in vogue. The name seems to imply that eventually marriage becomes stale and musty -- which leaves the couple with two options: trash it, or "renew" it. What is the Jewish take on this new trend?
Why the “countdown” to the holiday of Shavuot? What is the connection between numbers and counting, and the special gift which our nation received on this holiday?
You Can Do It
At the time, I thought her a demanding mother, completely oblivious to my limitations. Today I know better. The words, "Yes you can," are not oppressive. They are empowering.
Hello, Am I Home?
G‑d is saying: "Let's get one thing straight from the beginning: I am. The stars and the planets, the animals and the green trees and even humanity exist only because I am, and to serve My 'I am.' If you follow these Ten Commandments, you will join me in 'I am.'"
One Heart
Sinai unequivocally states that you do not have to resign yourself to a life of duality
The Secret of the Number Three
What is the significance of the number three, a prominent number in our history and tradition?
Why Is Shavuot So Easy?
Am I missing something here? Shouldn’t the holiday in which we received the many laws of the Torah have some laws of its own?
The Weekday Holiday
When you look back at the photo album of your life, which moments will you most treasure or regret, and which will you struggle to even remember?
The Shtei Halechem (Two Breads)
The two loaves offered in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on Shavuot
Let’s take a closer look at the Shtei Halechem offering and its significance, both practical and mystical.
Are Your Kids Good-Looking?
Would parents still love their children if they didn’t think they were intelligent and beautiful and talented?
A Mother’s Unconditional Love: The Secret Behind the Torah’s Transmission
Do I love them enough as they are? Or am I always trying to fit them into a “perfect” picture.
Bamidbar and Shavuot: The Intrinsic Connection
The essence of Shavuot is that G‑d Himself descended onto Mount Sinai—a move that was unheard of.
Our Main Purpose
This strengthens us to be masters over every aspect of our lives.
Bringing G-d Into Our Daily Lives
In our relationships, it is not enough to follow the letter of the law, doing just what is expected. You need to have a heart and be a mentch. You need to love your spouse in every way.
3,333 Years Since the Ten Commandments
On the deep and fascinating relation of Torah and Jews to the number three
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