Redacted from an extensive and instructive article:
Shavou’ot (Pentecost) – Guide for the Perplexed, 2014
By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
May 30, 2014
It has been customary to pave the road to the holiday of Shavou’ot – from the holiday of Passover – by studying the six chapters of The Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkey Avot in Hebrew) which is one of the 63 tractates of the Mishnah (the Oral Torah) – a compilation of common sense principles, ethical and moral teachings and underlying inter-personal relationships.
*”Who is respected? He who respects other persons!”
*”Who is a wise person? He who listens to other persons!”
*”Who is wealthy? He who is satisfied with his own share!”
*”Who is a hero? He who controls his urge!”
*”Talk sparsely and walk plenty;”
*”If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
*”Don’t be consumed with the flask, but with its content.”
*Conditional love is tenuous; unconditional love is eternal.”
*”Treat every person politely.”
*”Jealousy, lust and the obsession with fame warp one’s mind.”
Thus, the 49 days between Passover and Shavou’ot are dedicated to enhancing one’s behavior, following in the footsteps of the Jews, who forged/enhanced their own national character during the 40 years from the Exodus until their return to the Land of Israel.
Shavou’ot commemorates the receipt of the Torah, and its 613 statutes – an annual reminder of critical values which shape faith and human relationships. The Torah was received in the desert, on Mount Sinai which is not a dominating mountain, highlighting humility/modesty, the most critical values of human relationships and leadership. Humility/modesty characterized Moses, the exceptional law-giver and leader, who earned only one compliment by the Torah: “the humblest of all human beings.” Abraham (אברהם), King David (דוד) and Moses (משה) are role models of humility. Their Hebrew acronym (Adam – אדמ) means “human-being,” and is the root of the Hebrew word for “soil” (אדמה).
Shavou’ot reflects the 3,500 year old trilateral linkage between the Land of Israel (pursued by Abraham), the Torah of Israel (transmitted through Moses) and the People of Israel (united by David). According to King Solomon, “the triangular cord cannot be broken!” The Torah of Israel forged and enhanced the character of the People of Israel, and both have been nurtured by the Land of Israel – a unique territorial/spiritual platform. Shavou’ot – a spiritual holiday – follows Passover – a national liberation holiday: from the liberation of the People of Israel (the Exodus) to their spiritual liberation/enhancement through the Torah or Israel, in preparation for the return to the Land of Israel.
Shavou’ot is celebrated by decorating homes and synagogues/temples with Land of Israel-related crops and flowers.
Shavou’ot (Pentecost) was, originally, an agricultural holiday, celebrating the first harvest/fruit by bringing offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Following the destruction of the second Temple and the exile in 70 AD – which intensified the need to entrench Torah awareness in order to avoid spiritual and physical oblivion – Shavou’ot became a Torah-driven historical/religious holiday.
The Torah played a key role in shaping the US Constitution and the American culture, as well as the foundations of Western democracies.
Shavou’ot sheds light on the unique covenant between the Jewish State and the USA: Judeo-Christian Values. These values impacted the world view of the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers and the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, the abolitionist movement, 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 – “government of the people, by the people, for the people” – paraphrased a statement made by the 14th century British philosopher and translator of the Bible, John Wycliffe: “The Bible is a book of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Shabbat Shalom, Happy Shavou’ot and have a pleasant weekend,
Yoram Ettinger, Jerusalem
Based on Jewish Sages, May 30, 2014, http://bit.ly/1kriyES
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