We are affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the association of Conservative congregations in North America.
As we begin the month of May, we continue on our journey from Pesach to Shavuot. We count every day in between these holidays; and as tradition instructs us, every day has its own unique reflection of holiness.
Ostensibly, Pesach reminds us that freedom is a gift, but it’s not until Shavuot that we learn the purpose for this gift. On Pesach we remember that we were once slaves and that the Holy One broke the shackles of that slavery. So too are we reminded that God gives us the strength to break the shackles in our world–physical slavery (yes there is still slavery in the 21st century, tragically), emotional slavery, and psychological slavery. Pesach is both a reminder and a clarion call for us to work towards more freedom in our lives and in the lives of others.
However, it’s not until we reach Shavuot that we learn the reason for our freedom. On Shavuot, we celebrate receiving Torah at Sinai. Shavuot, thus, represents our spiritual calling–a calling that can be fulfilled only by people freely choosing to accept the ways of Torah, freely choosing to seek holiness and Godliness in our world, freely choosing to reveal the hidden sparks in the world.
By counting and reflecting on the meaning of each day in between these two festivals, we ritually connect these two essential ideas. Unlike political freedom, Torah teaches us that spiritual freedom is not an end unto itself. Rather it is only a means for what we do with it. We can choose to enter into a holy covenant and commit our freedom for the task of Torah, or we can shirk that duty. Whatever we decide will define our freedom.
Perhaps the best telling of this great lesson is found in the Torah itself, just before we say goodbye to Moshe and prepare for what is to come, the Holy One tells us:
“See, I set before you this day life and goodness, and death and adversity. For I command you this day, to love the Holy One your God, to walk in God’s ways, to keep the commandments, laws, and rules, that you may thrive and increase and that the Holy One your God may bless you.”
Rabbi Meir Goldstein