The Pesach seder with its unusual
foods and customs is not the only holy time that summons the question, “Ma
Nishtana” –Why are we doing things differently?. On Shavuos we can also very legitimately ask
the same question: “Why is this Yom Tov different? On other Yomim Tovim , we honor the holidays
with flesic meals; on this Yom Tov we also have a dairy meal. Why? The relationship between the Creator and the
Jewish people has been compared to the relationship between a parent and a
child. Loftier than the relationship
between a king and his subjects the parent-child relationship epitomizes ultimate
devotion and unconditional love.
Parental giving transcends all limitations and finds no barrier too high
or too wide to prevent the flow of benefits to the child. This parental giving
is understood through and symbolized by chalav.
In fact, the ultimate level of devotion is described as the “milk of
human kindness. Just as a parent sustains their children, providing every need,
how much more so does Hashem nurtures and sustains us.
Through our custom of making one
of our Shavuos seudas a dairy meal, we are perhaps expressing that we
acknowledge that the Torah is the “perfect formula” for our health and
existence. We clearly understand that Hashem sustains us long before we have
done anything to deserve such devoted care as we find when the Creator promised
to take us out of Mitzrayim and bring us to a land flowing with milk and honey (Shemos 3:7-8). The commentators inform us
that we merited this extraordinary treatment because of our potential to
receive and keep the Torah. This reveals
an important aspect of Hashem’s governance of this world. The Giver of all life
has an even greater desire to share His goodness with us than we do to receive
it. Thus, perhaps one of the reasons, we eat dairy foods on Shavuos is to
remind us that many of the benefits and blessings we enjoy are granted to us
even before we have accumulated the merits to earn them.
Torah, of course, is not just
for children, but it does keep us young.
Torah offers constant rejuvenation, the true “fountain of youth” from which
its adherents can drink from its continuous wellsprings. Torah never ages, nor
does its eternal wisdom become obsolete. Its pure spiritual “nutrients” help us
to clarify from that which is superficial from that which is essential.
Interestingly in this regard, chalav which is nourishing but not fattening,
shares the same letters as the word, chalev, which if not required to provide energy is stored
in the body. Perhaps one of the many lessons the Torah teaches us in forbidding
the consumption of chalev, and in
the time of the Temple
to burn it on the altar, is a remez to us that the energy, talent, strength,
wealth and wisdom that we are blessed with should all be used solely in the
service of Hashem.
Notably sharing our blessings, in
turn, enhances the attribute of humility as is hinted through the similar words
of chalav and chalev whose gematria are both forty. Is it any
coincidence that a Bas Kol declares ones besheret forty days before conception;
that the mabul, which purified the world in the generation of Noach, lasted
forty days; that Moshe Rabbainu fasted
forty days before receiving the Torah and that the minimum measurement for the
mikvah, which purifies and transforms us especially on Shavuos morning, all had
and have the ability to — so to speak – skim off the chalev from the chalav.
With these thoughts in mind this
Shavuos, may the Creator bless each of us with an abundance of everything we
need so as to be able to share our blessing with others. May we soon merit the
inauguration of our holy Bais HaMigdash, thereby being able to once again offer
up the chalev of our korbanos as a small expression of our gratitude
for all the chesed that we are blessed with.
All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia
- ELEVATING THE SOUL – THE DESIGNATION OF THE LEVIIM TODAY
- MOUNT (HAR) SINAI – THE CONDUIT FOR THE MESSAGE