While all of the festivals have the prohibition of refraining from work, they generally also have specific mitzvot related to each day. Shavuot, however, has no positive commandment directly associated with it, aside from the special offering of the day, the
, and the offering of the two loaves of bread. Further, there was only one mitzvah Hashem commanded
in preparation for the original holiday, to establish boundaries around the mountain so that the nation would not ascend beyond the permitted point. How are they relevant today?
Shavuot was the day when individuals would joyously bring their first fruits to the Beit Hamikdash. But, according to Medrash Tanchumah, Moshe foresaw the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, and the time when we would not be able to bring the first fruits. Moshe promptly offered the daily sacrifice, the korban tamid, which inaugurated the concept of daily prayer. The prayers would become our substitute offering to God during the years of our exile. The Halekach Ve'halebuv explains that the special service and mitzvah of Shavuot offered our heartfelt prayers to Hashem. Just as the daily animal offering was tamim, whole and pure, so we should offer our prayers wholeheartedly and purely.
Rabbi Schorr continues, Shavuot is King David's birthday and his yahrzeit. As he writes in Psalms, he considered himself a complete prayer,ani tefillah. It is therefore appropriate that we devote time to forging a closer relationship with Hashem through prayer on this day, as did King David. It is also an auspicious time to recite Tehilim, King David's beautiful expressions of feeling for his Maker, writes Rav M. Druck. This recitation is considered both prayer and Torah study.
The prayer of Ahavah Rabah,is customarily said with extraordinary conviction and focus on Shavuot. Rabbi Schwab explains that this prayer is an expression of our reciprocation of Hashem's great love for us. We ask Hashem to enlighten our eyes with His Torah and attach our hearts to His commandments out of conviction and love.
While Chag Habikurim signifies a renewal of love between Hashem and the Jewish people,Atzeret implies restraint. How is this related to the holiday? We accepted the Torah a second time, on Purim, through love. What brought this about, asks Rabbi Roberts? Through examining Haman's psyche, Bnei Yisroel realized the evil that following one's emotions without restraint can lead to. Haman received the adulation of everyone except Mordechai. That rankled him so much that he was willing to annihilate an entire people in revenge. They understood that the only way to rein in the power of the yetzer hara was through Torah. Otherwise the yetzer hara would destroy everything, just as Haman's yetzer hara almost destroyed our entire nation.
We can now understand why Hashem commanded Bnei Yisroel to set boundaries around Mount Sinai. As Meirosh Tzurim writes, it is a lesson for ourselves that we need to put boundaries in place to help us control our own actions, thoughts and speech. Before we can accept the Torah, we have to make sure our driving engines, our emotions and middot are in proper working order.
The Kedushat Levi continues his discussion of Atzeret by reminding us that setting boundaries was the only command Bnei Yisroel received in connection with Matan Torah. This was the only vessel we had through which could actualize our love of Hashem and His Torah. We continue to use Atzeret as a name for the festival to retain the inspiration we felt at the initial experience.
The Netivot Shalom connects this Atzeret with Shemini Atzeret. While Shavuot is the day of Matan Torah, when the Torah was given to us, Shemini Atzeret is Simchat Torah, the day of rejoicing with the Torah. Both come after a count of fifty full days, the first day of Pesach to Shavuot, and from Rosh Chodesh Elul to Simchat Torah. Neither day has a specific mitzvah associated with it, as each is a symbol of the special love Hashem has for His people.
Our sages portray the two Tablets of the Law as black fire of the letters against white fire of the background. This is similar to the black ink on the white parchment of the Torah scroll. TheNetivot Shalom quoting the Noam Elimech writes that the black letters are holy, for through them the individual mitzvot are written. But the white fire, the blank parchment, is even holier, for while no specific mitzvah is mentioned, all the mitzvot are included in the white spaces. This is why we have no specific mitzvah associated with Atzeret, for this is the white fire of Torah and of our observance.
Rabbi Chaim Hacohen brings another connection between Shavuot and Shemini Atzeret."Ki ner mitzvah V'Torah ohr-a mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light." He explains that every mitzvah requires a physical medium for its performance, just as a candle is composed of a physical wick and oil. Torah, on the other hand, is pure energy, non physical, like the pure energy of light. Yet the two come together in this world just as the pure energy of the soul from heaven joins with the physical body. On all the other festivals of the year we are involved with the physical aspects of the world, the world of seven, but twice a year we can plug into the direct source of our energy without physical"wiring." On these two days of Atzeret we enter a dimension above the physical, we enter the realm of the eight and of the fifty. On these days we don't need the physical mitzvot, for we plug our souls directly into the Source.