June 10, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 10, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Shavuos: A Time to Move Forward

Shavuos was a time of change and great expectations. Instead of being slaves and subjected to the will of Pharaoh and the Egyptian people, this was going to be the start of something new. God himself—after having executed a miraculous exile from Egypt—had brought the Jewish people to Mount Sinai. With a spectacular presentation, he gave the Jews the Torah. Nothing like this had ever happened before, nor would it ever occur again. This should have been a time of great faith and optimism. Open miracles were being performed. Yet, we have to ask ourselves whether the Jewish people rose to the occasion? Maybe not …

The Jewish people had been subjected to slavery for hundreds of years. They had acquired a slave mentality. They had been beaten down, mistreated and abused for so long that they could not conceive of a truly better life. They were skeptical, pessimistic and cynical. They kept challenging Moshe, “Did you bring us out here to die? Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt?” They complained about the food. They complained about the water. They were quick to believe the evil report of the scouts that spied out the land. The moment Moshe did not return as expected, they returned to the old idolatrous practices. The Torah described them as having “melted hearts.”

Rather than being positive and filled with faith and optimism, they walked around with a defeated, “poor me,” attitude. As a result, what should have been a journey of less than a couple of weeks—to the promised land—took 40 years to complete. Rather than move forward, they ran around in circles—worrying, feeling sorry for themselves and, generally, staying stagnant. Finally, God Himself had to tell them, “Enough already! Turn yourselves around and get going,” (Devarim 1:6). All of the members of that generation had to be replaced with a new generation of “can do” people, who were able to take on the challenges of conquering the land of Israel.

As we celebrate the anniversary of the Torah being given, we have to examine our hearts and ask ourselves, “What have we become? Are we going through life with a defeated attitude? Are we cynical, pessimistic and walking around with melted hearts ourselves? Are we traveling in circles doing the same things in the same way, year after year? If so, perhaps, we should take Hashem’s admonition as a wake-up call for ourselves as well. Enough already! Turn yourselves around and get going.”

We may not have seen open miracles ourselves. However—even for the generation that did—this, apparently, was not enough. They still had the slave’s mentality of defeatism. It all comes down to maintaining a positive attitude. We have to have faith that there is a God who watches us and wants us to succeed. We have to have faith that the same God who split the Red Sea and gave us the Torah on Mount Sinai is still there, looking out for us today. This was not just a historical event that took place 3,000 years ago. Instead, it was a lesson for our times as well.

During Shavuos, we have the tradition of adorning our homes and synagogues with flowers and greenery. Shavuos is a time for personal introspection, self-improvement and spiritual growth. Just as plants grow and flourish, we strive to cultivate our own character traits and deepen our connection to God and the teachings of the Torah. The presence of flowers and plants during Shavuos serves as a visual reminder of this growth and renewal process.

Shavuos represents our physical liberation as a people from Egypt. However, true freedom cannot be achieved by physical liberation alone. It also requires spiritual liberation—the ability to think for ourselves and make our own choices. That is why—after the Exodus from Egypt—the Israelites spent 49 days preparing themselves for the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. They were not just being physically freed from slavery—but also mentally and spiritually liberated—so that they could fully appreciate the significance of the Torah.

On Shavuos, we celebrate the completion of this process. We received the Torah—which not only contains laws and commandments—but also serves as a guidebook for living a meaningful and ethical life. The Torah provides us with a blueprint for how to live as Jews and as human beings, and it is up to us to follow its teachings.

May Hashem bless us with a positive attitude, a sense of spiritual liberation and an ability to grow and flourish just like the greenery we see around us. May we be able to liberate ourselves from any sense of defeatism in our lives. May we be able to look forward to “bracha” and “hatzlacha” in all our undertakings—expecting good things to happen for us, our families and klal Yisrael.


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles