Friday, May 07, 2010

Shavou’ot (Pentecost) Guide for the Perplexed

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Shavou'ot (May 19, 2010),

Yoram Ettinger (based on Ancient Jewish Sages)

May 7, 2010

1. Shavou’ot commemorates the bestowing of the Torah upon the Jewish People, which shaped the nature of the world in general and Western democracies in particular. The bestowing of the Torah took place over 3,300 years ago, setting the Jewish People on the Road Map to the Land of Israel. It also highlights the eternity of the Jewish People. Thus, the first and the last Hebrew letters of Shavou'ot ((שבועות constitute the name of the third son of Adam & Eve, Seth (שת), the righteous ancestor of Noah, hence of all mankind. The Hebrew meaning of Seth is מתן, which is the Hebrew word for the bestowing of the Torah vow in English, referring to the exchange of vows between G-D and the Jewish People. It is celebrated on the 6th day of the Jewish month of Sivan, 50 days following the Exodus. Shavou'ot took place 26 generations following Adam. The Hebrew word for Jehovah (יהוה) equals 26 in Gimatriya. There are 26 Hebrew letters in the names of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs: Abraham (אברהם), Yitzhak (יצחק), Yaakov יעקב)) Sarah (שרה), Rivka (רבקה), Rachel (רחל) and Leah (לאה).

3. The Hebrew root of Shavou’ot (and Shvoua’) is the word Seven – Sheva (שבע). Shavou’ot (the Festival of Weeks in Hebrew) is celebrated 7 weeks following Passover, reflecting the 7X7=49 gates of impurity in Egypt, which had to be rectified, in order to be worthy of the Torah. It also represents the 7 earthly attributes employed by God to create the universe (in addition to the 3 divine attributes. It stands for the 7 basic human traits, which individuals are supposed to resurrect/enhance in preparation for Shavou'ot. 7 key Jewish/universal leaders - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aharon, Joseph and David – represent the qualities of the Torah. Number 7 represents the wholesomeness of Judaism and the Land of Israel – 7 days of Creation and a 7 day week. The Sabbath is the 7th day, the first Hebrew verse in Genesis consists of 7 words, 7 species of the Land of Israel (barley, wheat, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date/honey, there are 7 directions (north, south, west, east, up, down, one’s own position), 7 gates to The Temple, 7 Noah Commandments, Moses’ birth/death was on the 7th day of Adar, Jethro had 7 names and 7 daughters, Passover and Sukkot last for 7 days each, each Plague lasted for 7 days, The Menorah has 7 branches, Jubilee follows seven 7-year cycles, 7 Continents, 7 notes in a musical scale, 7 days of mourning, 7 blessings in a Jewish wedding, 7 Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Abigail, Choulda and Esther), etc. Pentecost is celebrated – by Christians – on the 7th Sunday after Easter.

4. Shavou’ot is the second of the 3 Jewish Pilgrimages (Sukkot-Tabernacles, Passover and Shavou’ot), celebrated in the 3rd Jewish month, Sivan. It highlights Jewish Unity, compared by King Solomon to a triangular cord, which cannot be broken. The Torah - the first of the 3 parts of the Old Testament – was granted to the Jewish People (which consists of 3 components: Priests, Levites and Israel), by Moses (the youngest of 3 children, brother of Aharon and Miriam), a successor to the 3 Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and to Seth, the 3rd son of Adam & Eve. The Torah was forged in 3 ways: Fire (commitment to principles), Water (lucidity and purity) and Desert (humility and principle-driven tenacity). The Torah is one of the 3 global pillars, along with labor and gratitude/charity. The Torah is one of the 3 pillars of Judaism, along with the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

5. Shavou’ot highlights the Scroll of Ruth, who lived 3 generations before King David, son of Jesse, grandson of Ovad, the son of Ruth. The Scroll of Ruth is the first of the five Biblical scrolls: Ruth (Shavou’ot), Song of Songs (Passover), Ecclesiastes (Sukkot), Book of Lamentations (Ninth of Av), Esther (Purim). Ruth – a Moabite Princess - stuck by her mother-in-law, Naomi, who lost her husband (president of the Tribe of Judah) and two sons, in spite of Naomi's Job-like disastrous times, financially and socially. Naomi’s suffering constituted a punishment for the desertion of the People of Israel (emigration to Moab) during a most difficult draught. Leaders do not desert their people when the going gets rough! Ruth’s Legacy: Respect thy mother in-law, principles (loyalty, concern, modesty and love) over convenience. The total sum of the Hebrew letters of Ruth (רות) - in Gimatriya - yield the number of laws granted at Mt. Sinai (606), which together with the 7 laws of Noah total The 613 Laws of Moses.

The Scroll of Ruth highlights the Judean Desert as the Cradle of Jewish history – is it "occupied territory???"

6. Shavou’ot sheds light on the unique covenant between the Jewish State and the USA – Judeo-Christian Values (Torah and Biblical values of morality and justice). These values impacted the world view of the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers and the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, etc. John Locke wanted the “613 Laws of Moses” to become the legal foundation of the new society established in America. Lincoln’s famous 1863 quote paraphrased the 14th century John Wycliffe’s dedication to his English translation of the Bible: “a book of the people, by the people, for the people.”

7. Shavou’ot is the day of birth/death of King David (as well as the day that Moses was saved by Pharaoh's daughter), who united the Jewish People, elevating them to a most powerful position. David – along with Moses and Abraham – was a role model of humility and repentance, hence the Hebrew acronym of Adam (אדם- human being in Hebrew): Abraham (אברהם), David (דוד) and Moses (משה). In contrast with King Saul, King David assumed responsibility and accountability for his sins. He didn't just talk the talk; he walked the walk! 150 candles are lit at King David's tomb on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, consistent with the 150 chapters of Psalms mostly attributed to David. Number 150 is the numerical value of Nest (קן), the warm environment of the Torah. David’s personal history (from shepherd to king) provides a lesson for individuals and nations: Every problem is an opportunity in disguise; the road to success is paved with ups & downs; human beings are fallible but they must recognize their own fallibility, as a springboard toward improvement.

8. The Torah was granted on the small, modest Mt. Sinai – to a small People - in the desert. The Torah was delivered by Moses, "the humblest of all human beings." The content of the Torah doesn't require an impressive stage. Humility constitutes a prerequisite for studying the Torah and for constructive relationships and leadership.

9. The Torah was granted in the desert, a platform of Humility & Liberty. Celebrated fifty day following the Exodus (physical deliverance), Shavou’ot signifies spiritual liberation. Shavou’ot – Holiday of Reaping, Holiday of First Fruit, Day of Solemn - celebrates the culmination of the agricultural, physical and spiritual harvest season of optimism, which starts on the second day of Passover. Shavou’ot highlights the critical connection between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

10. Dairy dishes consumed during Shavou’ot, commemorate divine providence. According to the Kabbalah (Jewish mystical school of thoughts), milk represents divine quality. Babies – divine creation – are breast fed by mothers. Dairy dishes commemorate the most common food - of shepherds like King David - during the 40 years in the desert, on the way to the Land of Milk and Honey, the Land of Israel. Unlike wine, milk is poured into simple glasses. The total sum of milk (חלב) is 40 in Gimatriya, which is equal to the 40 days and nights spent by Moses on Mt. Sinai and the 40 years spent by the Jewish People in the Desert. 40 is also the value of the first Hebrew letter (מ) of key Exodus-Terms: Moses (משה), Miriam (מרים), Manna (מן), Egypt (מצרים), Desert (מדבר), Menorah (מנורה), Tabernacle (משכן), Mitzvah-Commandment (מצווה), etc.

40 generations passed from Moses – who delivered the "Written Torah" – to Rabbi Ashi and Rabbi Rabina, who concluded the editing of the Talmud, the "Oral Torah." The first and the last letters in the Talmud is the Hebrew “מ”, which equals 40 in Gimatriya.

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