Excitement mounts with each successive day of Sefirah, as we advance toward the culmination of the days of the Omer. The heavenly scent of new roses and fresh greenery enhance our exhilaration and escalate our anticipation of the wonderful Yom Tov of Shavuos – which comes to embrace us less than a week into the new month – as a sense of optimism fills us with hope for a brighter tomorrow.
We bentch Rosh Chodesh on Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai and observe the new month on Yom Shlishi (Tuesday, May 19), the 45th day of the Omer. Erev Shavuos falls on the following Shabbos, Parshas Bamidbar, with Shavuos celebrated on Yom Rishon and Yom Sheini, the sixth and seventh days of Sivan.
Among the luminaries whose yahrtzeits we commemorate on Shavuos, three are distinctive in their tremendous yiras shamayim, Torah erudition, and divine inspiration their legacy continues to instill in a multitude of followers: Dovid HaMelech, the Holy Baal Shem Tov and the Gaon known as the Miracle Rebbe – Rav Avraham Sholom Halberstam (also known as the Stropkover Rebbe).
Dovid HaMelech forged his special bond with Hashem as a young shepherd in the wilderness. Even at nighttime he would yearn not for a comfortable bed but for the protection of the Almighty. As he would gaze up at the heavens and behold the glow of the moon and the twinkling stars, he’d proclaim his reverence for Hashem and His wondrous works and be humbled by the smallness of man in comparison.
HaRav Yisroel Ben Eliezer Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, was born to elderly parents and was orphaned at the tender age of five. His saintly father had however bequeathed him a lasting and powerful legacy: fear no one but G-d and love every Jew with all your being.
The Maggid of Mezeritch, a Torah luminary in his own right, had heard of the greatness of the Baal Shem Tov and determined to prove the veracity of such stature for himself. After their initial engagement in a deep and lively discourse, the Maggid was almost sorry for having made the journey, as he could have used the time in Torah study.
In the middle of the night, the Baal Shem Tov summoned R’ Dov Ber and asked him if he considered himself to be an erudite Torah and Kabbalah scholar. The Baal Shem Tov then asked him to define a text of the Eitz Chaim (a Kabbalah sefer). After the Maggid had expounded on the mamaar, the Baal Shem Tov let him know that his pshat was incorrect. R’ Dov Ber deferred to the Besht to reveal his own interpretation. (This mamaar contained the name of several malachim.)
The Baal Shem Tov had the Maggid rise from his seat, and as he elucidated on the mamaar, a bright light suddenly suffused their surroundings and a ring of pillars of fire encircled them. (These were the Angels whose names were articulated by the Baal Shem Tov.)
The Besht then pointed out that whereas the Maggid’s pshat had indeed been the right one, his enunciation had lacked a soul. The overawed Maggid opted then and there to remain with the Besht, to gain wisdom and insight from the great spiritual master. The Maggid of Mezeritch eventually became his successor.
Rav Avraham Sholom Halberstam, the son of the Shinover Rebbe and grandson of the Divrei Chaim, was an outstanding Torah scholar who immersed himself in Torah study round the clock. Whenever fatigue would overwhelm him, he’d sleep for an hour and a half and promptly awaken to resume his fervent avodas Hashem. The Stropkover Rebbe was also famed for his supernatural ability to effect miraculous yeshuos and refuos.