Summer represents our mature years. What are we going to do with our lives? What are we going to do with this Torah we receive on Shavuos? Are we going to absorb it into our souls? Are we going to fly? Our Father Jacob dreamed of a ladder to the heavens. Will we climb that ladder?
During Sefiras HaOmer, we prepared ourselves for Shavuos. As we say twice a day in the Shema, “Let these matters that I command you today be upon your heart. Teach them thoroughly to your children and speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the road, when you retire and you arise.”
Summer represents our adult years during which, as mature beings, we work to accomplish our life’s goals. The end of summer, the month of Elul, is like the later years of our lives because at the end of life we will all be required to give an account of ourselves.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are like our “final exam.” On Yom Kippur we wear white, which indicates we have lived a clean life. We are going to try to live out our entire year, our entire life, in such a way that we will be able to justify wearing white on Yom Kippur. And white is the color we wear in the grave.
But life does not end for us in the grave. Remember, we have been “taken out” from the cycle of life and death. We have been permitted to step off the carousel. Instead of going round and round in an eternal circle, we are able to ascend upward to dwell with the King of the Universe.
After Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we reach the end of the Yom Tov cycle.
The sukkah represents our final reward, our permanent spiritual home. Why is the sukkah like a spiritual home? Because it offers no physical protection whatsoever. The rain comes through the sechach; the sun shines through and the stars are visible at night.
The sukkah represents the home we have built for ourselves over the course of the year, which represents the course of our life. Our reward for a serious life is to dwell in an eternal spiritual home with our fathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Yosef haTzaddik, Moshe Rabbeinu, Aharon haKohen and Dovid haMelech just as we dwell in the sukkah with the ushpizin.
We can therefore say that the Yom Tov cycle represents our entire existence, from before birth to after death, from the dust to the Heavens.
I was looking the other day at one of those gorgeous trees loaded with pink blossoms. Is there anything else that can compare to spring? I wondered: Why do those incredibly beautiful displays last only a few weeks? Why not the entire year? And then I realized that the natural cycle resembles the Yom Tov cycle we have just described. As King David says, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse of the sky tells of His handiwork” (Tehillim 19).
The spring parallels youth, when everything is fresh and beautiful. The summer reflects our mature years, and at the end of the summer there is a harvest, when the results of our life’s work become clear. In the autumn, the leaves fall off and winter comes, which parallels the end of life.
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In light of these thoughts, what shall we have in mind on Shavuos? We are living in the midst of a world that has gone astray to such an extent that its very existence is endangered. How can we make our life count?
Recently, an article from a popular magazine was brought to my attention. Consider these words, which characterize the society in which we dwell: “Nothing feels better than being fully in love with yourself! Just love yourself fully and completely. Dedicate yourself to loving yourself more.”
This is how the surrounding culture guides itself.
But we – lehavdil – march to a different tune. We say, twice a day, “Shema Yisrael… You shall love Hashem, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources.”
Soon we will live in the world of Mashiach, a world of Torah and Truth, in which Am Yisrael will be the “head and not the tail” and we will return to our ancient ways of purity and spiritual greatness.