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SHAVUOT DISTANCING

2020-05-31 06:10:14 AM

May31

Chaim Strauchler

Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. During these three seasons, the Jewish people gathered in Jerusalem for the shalosh regalim. Each holiday is associated with a certain physical space. Pesach is the home - where we gather for the Seder. Sukkot is the temporary dwelling, where we live for seven days. Both these holidays involve structures - the walls of the sukkah and the doorposts of our ancestors' homes. Shavuot is also linked to a physical space. What is it?

 

Before we received the Torah, Hashem instructed Moshe to set boundaries around the mountain (Shemot 19:12).

 

וְהִגְבַּלְתָּ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ סָבִ֣יב לֵאמֹ֔ר הִשָּׁמְר֥וּ לָכֶ֛ם עֲל֥וֹת בָּהָ֖ר וּנְגֹ֣עַ בְּקָצֵ֑הוּ

You shall set bounds for the people round about, saying, 'Beware of going up the mountain or touching the border of it....'

 

In this case, the structures do not hold us in, but rather keep us out. We can experience the special quality of revelation - but only at a distance. We must be careful when it comes to the Torah. We must set boundaries around it. The very first mishnah of Pirkei Avot (1:1) makes this point utilizing a non-physical barrier.

 

משֶׁה קִבֵּל תּוֹרָה מִסִּינַי, וּמְסָרָהּ לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ, וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ לִזְקֵנִים, וּזְקֵנִים לִנְבִיאִים, וּנְבִיאִים מְסָרוּהָ לְאַנְשֵׁי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הֵם אָמְרוּ שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים, הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין, וְהַעֲמִידוּ תַלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה, וַעֲשׂוּ סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה:

Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be patient in [the administration of] justice, raise many disciples and make a fence round the Torah.

 

If Pesach is home and Sukkot is the temporary, then Shavuot is distance. This Shavuot, we are cautious and aware of the boundaries that protect from the disease. We wear masks and gloves - we maintain appropriate social distance. We must always be careful to protect the Torah. We feel an extra sensitivity, this year. The Torah is our special treasure. It is "our life and the length of our days." We feel these truths this year as we do every year. At times, we must distance ourselves from the things that we love most specifically because we love them. We feel this especially now. Shavuot teaches us about the love contained within distance.

Tue, 7 July 2020 15 Tammuz 5780