At long last, the winter is gone. Warm and sunny days have replaced the cold and clouds we lived with for so many months. This season of beauty and hope is the perfect time of the year for the celebration of the Shavuot holiday. Shavuot celebrates several different, but related ideas. The first is gratefulness. Shavuot is known as Chag Habikkurim, the festival of the first fruits, when our ancestors brought the first fruits to the Temple to thank God for the harvest. Today’s world is filled with pessimism. Many of us feel that we are on the brink of disaster, whether it’s from war or global warming or political chaos. Shavuot, however, tells us to focus on the good and on the many things, large and small, that should be occasions for gratitude. The second is the importance of religious belief. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah. In our increasingly secular age, there are some who stigmatize religion as the refuge of the hateful benighted and the ignorant. The giving of the Torah reminds us that faith is a gift. Faith gives us the stability, hope and strength to get through the most difficult times. We also think of the countless good deeds that are motivated by religious belief that collectively make the world a much better place. Shavuot also teaches us the value of time. This is because in the counting of the Omer, we count each and every day between Shavuot and Passover. This teaches us that each day is an irreplaceable treasure, and that we should make each day count. Wishing you a happy Shavuot.
Rabbi Gerald Sussman