Shavuot: Honoring a slim but pivotal moment of connection


BP Drawing by Isabelle Platt

TRIPLE: Shavuot begins this Saturday night at sunset, just after Shabbat, creating a three-day yom tov. The holiday ends Monday, June 6, at 8:46 p.m.

By Elishai Khoobian, 10th Grade

Shavuot is known as the fun holiday where we stay up all night learning Torah, eating endless amounts of cheesecake and as many dairy products as we can think of. On that day thousands of years back we received the Torah. The Jewish people are miraculously taken from their terrible lives as slaves and placed in front of the holiest sight in Jewish history. 

If Shavuot marks the day we received the Torah, how come Simchat Torah, the day we restart the cycle of the Torah’s Parashot, is not on Shavuot?

The nation stayed up all night with excitement waiting for Moshe to come down with the luchot – the tablets with the 10 Commandments – and started learning and following them right away. And because of the Biblical law of not mixing dairy and meat products, they automatically stopped eating meat and ate only dairy until they got separate pans and pots for meat and milk foods. 

But why Shavuot?  Simchat Torah is the day where some parents have too much kiddush and others dance with a Torah in each arm, while we finish the last parsha, V’zot HaBracha, and start the first one, Bereshit. But if we received the Torah on Shavuot and started learning it then, would it not make more sense to celebrate the completion of the Torah on Shavuot?

If Shavuot marks the day we received the Torah, how come Simchat Torah, the day we restart the cycle of the Torah’s Parashot, is not on Shavuot? And what are we celebrating on Shavuot, if it’s not the Torah or the completion of the Torah? 

Well, we all know the story of the first time Moshe came down from Mount Sini and saw the sin if the Golden Calf and immediately broke the luchot – on Shavuot. And, we know that Moshe went up two more times, first to ask God for forgiveness on behalf of the Jewish people, and then to receive the second set of  luchot. The first set of  luchot was written by God, unlike the second one. 

We see from this that on Simchat Torah we celebrate the second set of  luchot, the set we were able to keep. We commemorate God’s restored love for the Jewish people. We dance with the completed Torah while an unbelievable sense of jubilation fills the air. 

On Shavuot we celebrate the slim moment of connection we had with God on Mount Sinai on that day, when God gave us the luchot for the first time, Even though we were not able to keep those luchot on that day, we rejoice over becoming God’s special nation, and the deepest and most personal connection we as a nation had with God possible to man. It had an eternal effect on the Jewish people forever. 

So the next time you are stuffing your face with twenty different cheesecake flavors, think about the holiness of the day. It is not the day we received the Torah. It is the day, thousands of years back, when the Jewish people were in the holiest and most intimate period with God in all of human history. This Shavuot we should all aim to reach the same deep and meaningful connection with God that our ancestors had at Mount Sinai. 

Chag Sameach!