When several people are crowded together in one place, the question that immediately arises is whether or not they are somehow connected. Are they just jostling each other or perhaps they have something in common? When speaking of events rather than people, there is a growing sense that we have to discover what it is exactly that interconnects the events.
The fifty days between Pesach and Shavuot are the most jam-packed days of the year. They contain within them seven significant days.
Some of them are ancient - Pesach, Lag Ba'Omer and Shavuot, and some of them have been renewed in the last generation: Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem’s liberation).
What is the connection between these seven days that “so happen" to fall in such a short period of time? Is there a relationship between them or does each one stand by itself regardless of the others?
The two days that at first glance are clearly connected are Pesach and Shavuot. If you ask any student in our terrific school when is the holiday of Matan Torah, he will say: "The 6th of Sivan." However, if you search for this date in the Torah you will discover that it does not exist at all! The only holiday that does not have a fixed day and month is Shavuot. When is it? Just do the math - always fifty days after Pesach!
What is the relationship between Pesach and Shavuot? Pesach is the day when we set out for freedom, and in fact were reborn as a free nation. However, this is only the first stage, the vessel into which content must be cast. This is where holiday of Shavuot, the day of the giving of the Torah, steps in. The people who left Egypt received their spirituality capabilities and pathway by letting the Torah guide them in life. The “disappearance” of the date sends us a message that even if we had assistance from Hashem in the first stage, the second stage depends primarily on us, and to make it happen it is not enough to sit idly by and wait for a specific date, but to embark on a journey of self-correction and purification for fifty days. Every day has its spiritual work and whoever misses one of these days will then find it difficult to continue towards the destination.
The same relationship that exists between Pesach and Shavuot also exists between the two holidays that were renewed in the last generation: Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. On May 14th, 1948 the State of Israel was established. This is a historic moment and a new chapter in the life of our people after two thousand years of terrible exile. Although this is a momentous event, it is not the final chord of this story in our lives. It is only the basis for the appearance of the second stage, Jerusalem, the city that has been united and represents our spiritual destiny of the Jewish people and the Temple. Here, we must work hard and sweat to climb up to reach this spiritual second stage.
It turns out that on the two set of days we have described, the Jewish people are somewhere along the continuum between the first stage - the very physical existence, and the second stage - the essence and spiritual content. Just to illustrate - there are countless families in Israel and US who celebrate the Seder one way or another. Shavuot, on the other hand, is less celebrated. The masses in Israel express their joy at what happened on Yom HaAtzmaut. Few more worry about making Yom Yerushalayim into a holiday, and in many cities, it looks like a perfectly normal day.
It is at this point we are faced with decisive life choices. Everyone has in their spiritual lives the Pesach and Yom HaAtzmaut – divine interventions that helped us reach a certain point. Are we ready to reach the Shavuot and Yom Yerushalayim milestones? Are we willing to put effort into our spirituality?
In Israel, for all those who were born after the establishment of the state of Israel, the reality in which we are under a sovereign Jewish government and our own army is almost obvious. We don’t know it any other way. Nonetheless, alongside Yom HaAtzmaut there are also two other days of remembrance that help us understand that this was not the only inevitable end result. Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron mark for us the alternative paths.
For two thousand years of exile, every monarch or ruler could have decided one day to deport, rob or convert the Jews in his kingdom, and they were simply powerless against him. We were subject to terrible humiliation and degradation when we were weak and detached from our land. The climax was seventy years ago when millions of our brothers and sisters were led to their deaths and the indifferent world stood by. The memory of the Holocaust sharpens our consciousness to the alternative existence of a Jewish state. Do people complain that it is not perfect? Sure, but we must also remember that we are much better off with it – no matter what.
All of the mentioned 6 days are intertwined together and form a deep sense of vision to the Jewish people. Physical presence and spiritual existence. Awe-inspiring miracles and endless perseverance. From the days of our forefathers, until this very day celebrating Israel’s 70th birthday.
What about Lag Ba'Omer, you ask? How is it connected? Well, as usual, I can’t leave you without something to think about.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Birthday Israel!