It is with great excitement and expectancy that we bentch Rosh Chodesh Sivan — which comes out on Friday (May 10 on the English calendar).
While in Nissan we witness God’s miracles, during Iyar we are privileged to perceive the divine light of Sivan from afar, in anticipation of the most extraordinary event in the history of mankind — to be “joined” to God to personally receive His holy Torah. (Shem MiShmuel)
The twin tablets (luchos) served as witnesses at the betrothal of Hashem and Bnei Yisrael — the partnership that is symbolized by the twins of Sivan. Just as a chosson and kallah are forgiven all their sins on their wedding day and are granted a fresh start, Shavuos – a time for renewal of our vows – commemorates our “wedding” at Kabbolas Torah and is thus an exalted time for teshuva. (Kedushas Levi)
The following are among the righteous individuals who left this earth in Sivan to study Torah in the Yeshiva Shel Maalah: R’ Yisrael Hager – Ahavas Yisrael of Vizhnitz and R’ Chaim Elazar Shapira – Minchas Elazar of Munkacz (2 Sivan); Dovid HaMelech ben Yishai and R’ Avrohom Mordechai Alter – the Imrei Emes of Ger (6 Sivan); R’ Yisroel ben Eliezer – Baal Shem Tov and R’ Avraham ben Avraham – Ger Tzedek (7 Sivan); R’ Chaim of Volozhin (14 Sivan); R’ Shimon ben Gamliel and R’ Yishmael Kohen Gadol (25 Sivan); R’ Yonasan ben Uziel (26 Sivan); R’ Chanina ben Tradyon (27 Sivan); R’ Meir Rosenbaum of Kretchnif (30 Sivan).
The two luminaries who relinquished their holy souls to their Maker on Shavuos and have for centuries served as the embodiment of integrity for our people are legendary in their exalted Avodas Hashem and have bequeathed to us a lasting legacy of absolute faith and belief in the Master of the Universe.
One is our beloved King David, the eloquent Psalmist, the other the founder of Chassidus, the holy Baal Shem Tov. Observing their yahrtzeits on Shavuos imbues us with inspiration and prompts us to fortify our everlasting bond with our One and Only.
The Zohar teaches that the birth of Dovid on Shavuos was instrumental in conjoining Torah Sh’biksav (the Written Torah) with Torah Sh’baal Peh (the Oral Torah). It is further written that when Dovid HaMelech died (on Shavuos that fell on Shabbos), the moon at mincha time darkened, and the light of the Oral Torah was extinguished.
It is a positive commandment to honor the memory of King David on Shavuos – he who was promised by G-d that the recitation of Tehillim would for all time be tantamount to the study of Torah, thereby fulfilling Dovid’s request to repose in both of G-d’s worlds. (When a sage’s words reverberate long after his demise, it is as if he lives on.)
To this end, a fascinating story is told about a man of prominence who merited to have a Sefer Torah written and whose affluence enabled him to be personally involved in every minute detail of the process — from the purchasing of the calves and feeding their meat to the poor, to the utilization of the calf’s hide as parchment for the Torah’s holy script.
Upon the extensive work’s completion, this gevir prepared a resplendent seudah to which he invited the greatest Rabbonim and talmidei chachamim, as well as the plain and simple folk. Among the latter was the town’s water-bearer who was orphaned at a young age and thereby deprived of the opportunity to learn Torah. Nonetheless, he was a G-d-fearing man who recited Tehillim continuously and poured his heart out to the Ribono Shel Olam.
On the day of the grand celebration, the water-bearer was especially famished and eagerly looked forward to taking part of the sumptuous repast. As he sat and patiently waited to wash for the fresh dinner roll that adorned each place setting, the delectable smells wafting out of the kitchen into the dining area intensified his hunger.
Just as the last of the speakers was winding up, another personage made an appearance and began to regale the crowd with yet another drasha. The water-bearer could bear his hunger no more. Since he was sitting at the edge of a table, he decided that no one was likely to pay much attention if he were to do his own thing.
Sad to say, the poor man was spotted by none other than the host who happened by just as the water-bearer readied to wash. The gevir flew into a rage over the simpleton’s impudence and severely chastised the water-bearer for daring to wash ahead of everyone else.
“And because you say Tehillim you consider yourself to be worthier than every other participant here?” screamed the host at the poor starving man.
The shamed water-bearer escaped the gaze of everyone around him as fast as his feet could carry him, but truth be told the momentary disruption was quickly forgotten.
When the festivities were over, the tired gevir sat down to his regular, nightly shiur. No sooner did he immerse himself in his learning than a knocking on the door interrupted him. Before he could discern the identity of his late hour visitor, a gust of wind picked the man up and carried him to a faraway place.
After landing on his feet and ascertaining that no serious physical injury had befallen him, he saw a light emanating from a distance and before long came upon a grand palatial structure.
Through a window he discerned three men with glowing faces seated on golden chairs around a huge table. All at once he overheard someone say, “Make place for Dovid HaMelech!” and a brief moment later, “Baruch Haba’ah, Dovid Melech Yisrael!”
The scenario soon repeated itself, this time to proffer honor on the holy Baal Shem Tov, who forthwith joined the three Avos and Dovid HaMelech — whereupon Dovid HaMelech rose and called for a Din Torah to adjudge the action of the gevir who had embarrassed the water-bearer berabim (in public).
“As is known,” began Dovid HaMelech, “Hakodosh Boruch Hu had assured me that the recitation of Tehillim would be considered as worthy as the learning of Torah. Since the water-bearer says Tehillim day in and day out, he is revered in shamayim. The gevir, who is standing outside, mocked him for saying Tehillim.”
The Bais Din concurred that one who shames another is as if he had spilt his blood and should incur penalty accordingly. The Baal Shem Tov, however, intervened with his own viewpoint.
“The psak is indeed correct,” the Besht began. “But if he should die, who will be the wiser as to the cause of his sudden demise…and how would others be made to understand the significance of saying Tehillim, or, for that matter, the gravity of shaming another?
“I therefore propose that the rich man replicate the feast, at which he should publicly beg forgiveness of the water-bearer whom he had shamed berabim.”
The Bais Din allowed the Baal Shem Tov to approach the gevir and ask him if he was amenable to this alternate ruling. When the accused agreed to the term set forth by the Besht, a stormy wind carried him promptly back to his home.
The next morning he went about setting things in motion and extending invitations to an even more lavish feast than the last. There he recounted the entire episode and asked the water-bearer publicly for forgiveness for the humiliation he had caused him.
And so, dear readers, we are reminded of the virtuousness of reciting the verses of Tehillim, as well as of the severity of shaming someone in the presence of others.