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Thought for the Day: Chag HaShavuos -- Not Festival of Weeks, But Celebration of The Weeks

I finally have gotten into the mind of one the the classic stand up men of the previous generation, Jack Benny.  This year my wife offered me the Hobson's choice of Pesach in Florida with my children and grandchildren or stay in Chicago by myself so I could daven at dawn.  Of course, she didn't really make the offer, but in my mind that was the choice and I kept hearing this little voice saying, "I'm thinking, I'm thinking..."

I've been bothered by a question about the issur of chameitz on pesach for some time; namely: the comparison of chameitz to the yeitzer hara.  The only difference between chameitz and matzah, so goes the the shmuess, is air; we rid ourselves of it once a year and re-adjust our priorities.  Maybe, but chameitz bread isn't just puffier...it tastes so much better!  And it's more satisfying.  In fact, sefardim make a m'zonos on matzah all year around and need the heter of "that's bread on pesach; deal with it" to make a motzi on matzah for the festival week.  What's up with that?

Halichos Shlomo asks another question:  All our holidays are named for what they are about: Pesach/Chag HaMatzos, Sukkos, Rosh haShana, Yom Kippur, Rosh Chodesh; what it's called is what it is.  Then there is Shavuos.  The weeks of counting the omer are already behind us by the time we celebrate.  And anyway how can the name of the holiday that celebrates receiving the Torah -- our connection with our Creator, our King, our Father -- completely disregard any of that!?!

Let me tell you about our first k'vasikin Yom Kippur.  We had just moved into the present facility, which used to be a "kosher style" (read: not kosher) restaurant.  The renovations had just begun and we had concrete slab floor, no inside walls, exposed (and dripping) plumbing.  We were all there for one purpose: to daven in the best way at the most propitious time on the most important day of the year.  We forged a bond with each other and our Creator, our King, our Father that gets renewed and strengthened each and every day.  We started from nothing and now every floor tile and each light bulb is appreciated as an enhancement to our avodas HaShem.

The Torah haK'dosha isn't a book of rules!  It's the Instructions for Life and Blueprint of Creation.  You don't just get that handed to you and sent on your way with a handshake and a good luck.  You need to prepare.  Every year we remove all vestiges of chameitz from our physical lives as we work to remove all vestiges of the yeitzer hara from our spiritual lives.  Then we rebuild, day by day, week by week till we get to Shavuos.  The festival that is kulo matzah is the beginning of the preparation for the holiday whose korban is the shtei ha'lecham -- two loaves of chameitz.  Spiritually we started with no yeitzer hara to end up using our yeitzer hara for its true purpose; bara yeitzer hara, bara torah tavlan -- He created the yeitzer hara to show off and beautify His creation by being subjugated to the Torah.

Shavuos is very aptly named.  Those weeks transformed us from basar v'dahm to Am Yisrael!  Could there be a more important celebration than that?

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