Chol HaMoed – A Combination of Holiness and the Mundane
Chol Hamoed is really a mixture of kadosh and everyday activities, hence it is referred to as “Chol,” everyday, and “Hamoed,” of the festival. Here in Eretz Yisroel, this mixture is truly felt. In the religious areas, all stores except supermarkets are closed. The streets are full of Yidden in their Yom Tov garb, the shuls are packed with people learning Torah, and families have festive meals. But at the same time, people are driving cars, going on buses, and using their phones. It is a Yom Tov ambiance with the additions of weekday activities – an amazing atmosphere!
What is the reason for this combination? Perhaps it is meant to bring the lessons of the Yom Tov and its kedusha into our regular daily lives. We do not want those ideas to remain abstractions – we must live based on them. The days of Chol HaMoed serve as that bridge.
Now we understand why the days between Pesach and Shavuos are also called Chol HaMoed. During these days we take the emunah we gained on Pesach and apply it to our daily lives. This is the necessary preparation for Shavuos. For on that day, Hashem gave us the Torah, which contains the guidelines of how to live a life of closeness to Him in our mundane world.
How can we make the most of these days?
The first way, of course, is through sefiras ha’omer. Each day, as we count towards Shavuos, we should remind ourselves Who is giving us our food; doing so will make our emunah more real.
The second way is strengthening the way we daven. We have seen that through tefillah we make ourselves more aware that we need Hashem for everything. But since we say the same exact words of Shemoneh Esrei each day, we have trouble feeling it. The Chofetz Chaim suggests that we pause for a moment before each blessing of Shemoneh Esrei and think about what we are about to request. Doing so will help us feel that we are truly asking for something.
We all know that in Yiddishkeit it is never good to jump too many levels at once, because after a short while we will just fall back to where we were started. Thus, we should start with just one bracha until we have brought it to life. Only then should we move on to the next one.
Perhaps it would be a good idea during these days to think, before we say the bracha of Bareich Aleinu, that we are about to ask Hashem for our sustenance. When we do so, we can internalize the fact that all of our livelihood is from Hashem – an excellent preparation for Shavuos!