This D’var Torah was given over by Ari Fuld on May 12, 2017 as part of his Grill & Torah Series. Published at AriFuld.org.
It was transcribed by Miriam Fuld and edited from the original version.
All of our holidays have certain themes and ideas in common. Most of our holidays have some focus on sin. But there is also another common denominator that two specific holidays have in common even though they seem to be exact opposites: Yom Kippur and Shavuot.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we fast, we don’t satisfy our bodily needs at all, and we try to reach a level of spirituality above the norm.
While the holiday of Shavuot, also known as Chag HaBikurim, is when we bring “Bikurim”, the first fruits to Jerusalem, but it is also known as Z’man Matan Torateinu, the time when we received the Torah.
Parshat Emor can be a little dry for anyone living in the 20th century because the majority of the Parsha goes through the whole list of holidays, from Rosh Hashana until the end, and talks about the Korbanot, the sacrifices connected to the holidays.
But when the parsha discusses the Kohanim (the priests) and the sacrifices they have to bring throughout the year and specifically on the holidays, it also mentions Sefirat Haomer (which isn’t a sacrifice).
Between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot, there are 49 days where we count up to the 50th day, until Shavuot, at which point people bring their fruits to Jerusalem and there’s a new Omer, a new cycle of foods, the wheat, the grains, that we are now allowed to eat.
It turns out there are actually several things that Yom Kippur and Shavuot have in common with one another.
The most obvious commonality is that we have a Shofar, the ram’s horn being blown.
At the end of Yom Kippur, at the an end of a very holy day of fasting, we sound the shofar, and that ends the day symbolizing our holiness.
When we talk about Shavuot, we have this concept of 50, the Yovel, and the sounding the shofar.
Furthermore, at Har Sinai when we received the Torah it says: בִּמְשֹׁךְ֙ הַיֹּבֵ֔ל הֵ֖מָּה יַֽעֲל֥וּ בָהָֽר
“When the ram’s horn sounds a long, drawn out blast, they may ascend the mountain.”
Before Moshe went up to Har Sinai, no one was allowed to go up there except for Moshe. And then, after Moshe came down from the mountain, the shofar was blown, a big tekia, a long sound of the shofar was sounded, and with that the mountain then lost its sanctity and all the other people were allowed to climb up that mountain. But that was only after Moshe descended from the mountain that Har Sinai lost its holiness.
Why is there a shofar on Shavuot and a shofar on Yom Kippur? What’s the connection?
After all, on Yom Kippur we are sad and sorry for what we did and we correct our sins. Whereas on Shavuot we are getting the Torah, it’s a completely happy day.
Why is there a shofar on both a happy day and a sad day?
We need to first ask another question. When did Yom Kippur become the Day of Atonement? The answer is that it became the Day of Atonement after we sinned with the golden calf in the desert.
Moshe went up Har Sinai, and when he was delayed from coming down for just a short time, and the nation of Israel lost faith. They were scared that they didn’t have a leader anymore and as a result they built the golden calf, this idolatry. It wasn’t long after God told them to not make any idols or any masks or any golden figures- and here we go and make this golden calf.
The day that we received repentance for that sin is on Yom Kippur, the 10th day of Tishrei. As such, there is a hint about Matan Torah on Yom Kippur, because that is the day we were given atonement for the golden calf which happened after Matan Torah.
The holiday of Shavuot is different in that way. We are not fasting, we don’t have this ultimate fear or awe, in fact, we are eating all day. We don’t mention anything negative.
So what’s the difference/connection between the holidays?
The big issue is the Sin.
On Shavuot we don’t mention the Sin at all.
On Yom Kippur we mention the Sin and we read about it all day long, but we also talk about Matan Torah, when we got the Torah.
What is also interesting is that at the end Yom Kippur we get repentance for Chet Ha’egel- the golden calf, and we essentially go back in time to the time of standing at Har Sinai.
In other words, God gave us repentance for the golden calf and our purity was restored to its previous level when receiving the Torah from Har Sinai – our status on Shavuot.
And if that is true, then we are specifically on the level of Shavuot, on the level of getting the Torah at the end of Yom Kippur.
At the time of Matan Torateinu we are all spiritual, everything was spiritual. We had to prepare ourselves for three days at Har Sinai. We weren’t allowed to be at home, we couldn’t touch the mountain because it was so holy, etc., and where is all this happening? It’s all happening outside of the Land of Israel.
Yet Shavuot is also called Chag HaBikurim. And people brought their fruits to where? To the Temple, to the Bet Hamikdash, in Israel.
There’s a significant difference here between those locations on the same holiday.
When we sing Dayenu on Pesach, we don’t say we got out of Egypt and stop there and that’s it. Or that we got the Torah and that’s it.
The ending of that song is when we came to the Land of Israel and we build the Beit Hamikdash. That’s the end of the song. That is where the period is at the end of the sentence. We’ll get back to this important idea.
A common thread runs through all our holidays. Rosh Hashanah – we’re praying for teshuva, for repentance. We have Yom Kippur- sin. We can go on further- even Rosh Chodesh, on every single holiday we are bringing sin offerings, every single holiday.
And then on Shavuot there’s nothing (The specific word sin – Chataat does not appear in Bamidbar 28:30 with regard to the sin offering on Shavuot).
So the difference and the answer to this conundrum is as follows.
According to Judaism, sin is not the end of the road. We wish we wouldn’t have sinned, but everybody sins, even Moshe sinned, but sin is not the end of the road.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov says, you fall down in order to rise up.
You sin. It’s terrible, OK. you confess to yourself, and you make sure you confess to God, and you cry over your sin and you say you’re sorry. But that’s not all. Repentance is not just about saying I did something wrong. Repentance is about fixing what you did. Sin is actually the beginning of becoming holier.
We see this in nature.
You plant a seed in the ground. What happens to that seed ? It disintegrates. It gets spoiled and destroyed, it opens up and it breaks. If you pull a seed out of the ground before it sprouts, you will find a destroyed thing, it looks like garbage. But that is only what it looks like to the naked eye of someone who is untrained to realize the cycle of life. Because sin, yes, we have to be sad about it, we have to be sorry about it, but it is also the beginning of our growth. When a seed is planted in the ground and it disintegrates and gets destroyed, its next step is to sprout from the ground. And a beautiful tree emerges and grows from it.
So too, sin is the same thing. We wish we wouldn’t have done it, but we did, everyone does, on purpose even. Now the question is, what happens next?
Let’s consider Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the whole goal of that day is growth. The idea is that we sinned, but we are going to fix things. That’s the entire goal of the day.
On Yom Kippur we mention the giving of the Torah, but realize, what is it that we do all day on Yom Kippur? We cut out eating and we cut out everything physical. It’s freedom from this world. We spend the whole day in shul, praying, saying all kinds of prayers for atonement for Am Yisrael and even the world, and that’s where the day ends. It’s about freedom from this world, freedom of the mundane and physical things of this world.
Shavuot is exactly the opposite, and that’s what’s interesting.
We know when Yovel, the 50th Jubilee year comes along, if a person owned land that he purchased from someone else, in the 50th year it goes back to its original owners.
Who are the original owners? The tribal owners.
The Land of Israel was divided between the tribes and in the 50th year we restore the land back to the original owners. Why? Because on one hand we want to disconnect from this world (to rise above it), while on the other we want to know how to work within this world, so we can actually benefit the world and behave like a normal human being.
Judaism is a liberal religion. We try to protect the rights of the weak. But it’s based on an objective morality not defined by humans.
False morality, false liberalism, is defined by man. Man will decide one year this is right and one year that’s right. They’ll decide one year they don’t want this to happen and the next year it’s their right to do whatever they want. That’s not real liberalism, that’s immorality. When man gets to decide what he’s comfortable with [morally] – that’s an animal level. A dog decides what he’s comfortable with- Monday I want to do this, Tuesday I want to do that.
We are different. So when Shavuot comes along, it’s a different kind of freedom.
In Judaism, we hit our hearts at חטא על in the prayers.
We have become slaves to our machines, to everything we do at work, to technology- we’ve become slaves.
At the end of the day to become free is not to do what you want, that’s animal-like. Animals do what they want. Freedom is the freedom to choose right.
On Yom Kippur when we blow the shofar – that’s the call to freedom, freedom from this world. Repent, by not eating and by drinking. By cutting out the physical stuff. Freedom from this physical world.
When Shavuot comes along and we blow that shofar, it’s also about freedom, but freedom WITHIN this world, as part of this world. We don’t cut things out. We eat , we sing, we are very happy, but we do it according to the laws of the Torah. We’re free.
I would define freedom as responsibility. I’m free to choose the moral path. I’m free as a nation to choose my way and not to be dictated by another.
If your parents are educating you to be a moral person, and you say, “come on, I want to be free, don’t bug me…” That’s not freedom, that’s irresponsibility. That is someone who rejects responsibility, someone who doesn’t understand what responsibility means.
Freedom is about being responsible.
When it comes to Shavuot when that horn blows, we are actually freed from the shackles of this world because we are living in it according to a moral code that God gave us. That’s what Shavuot is all about.
Both shofar soundings symbolize the idea of freedom, but their two freedoms are very different.
One freedom is the idea of separating from this world, and the other freedom is the idea of connecting to this world, but in the way we are supposed to.
What’s also interesting about all the holidays is their connection to Israel. (As mentioned before) Eretz Yisrael is center game. [We have bringing the Bikurim on Shavuot to the Beit HaMikdash in Israel, even though Matan Torah of Shavuot was outside of Eretz Yisrael.]
What is an indigenous people? It’s not about people who were [physically] born in a certain place.
I was born in America, but I am not an indigenous American. Indigenous Americans are the Native Americans, the Indians. I was a Jewish American, I was a Jew living in America, my nation is not “American”.
When I say I am indigenous to the land of Israel it doesn’t mean I was born here. It means that my whole religion, history, laws and culture are dependent upon the Land of Israel. All our holidays are centered around the Land of Israel. All our prayers are centered around the Land of Israel. We pray towards Jerusalem. There is not another nation or religion in the world who sees Jerusalem as its only religious city.
The entire Jewish religion has to do with the Land of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular. Our culture, our blessings, our prayers, our traditions, everything is about the Land of Israel. We cannot do this anywhere else. By definition, we are the people of this Land.
As an aside, the UN has a definition of indigenous people, and we Jews met that definition. So what did the UN do? They added two more clauses. One clause is that an indigenous people must be living under another people. Do you see how ridiculous that is? If an indigenous people actually win back their land, they are no longer indigenous.
So the UN will do what they do. Maybe that’s their job, to keep keep us in check. To remind us that now that we have come back to the Land of Israel, we have a responsibility to know how to act in the Land of Israel. If we don’t, there are powers around us that are going to try to kick us out.
So instead of worrying about the world and what they think about us, let’s start to worry about what we should be doing here in the Land of Israel and how we should be acting.
What responsibilities should we be keeping up? What are we doing here? Who are we? And realize need to take care of ourselves
Signing off from the beautiful hills of Judea, Israel