The following is an adaptation of an article that appeared last year before Shavuot.
Tonight, Tuesday night, June 3, at 8:03 PM, Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks will be ushered in with candle lighting. Outside of the Holy Land, the holiday will be two days. In Israel, the holiday will be one day. During this holiday, we do not drive or flip light switches, or ,for that matter, any other type of electric switch, unless it is to save a life. We do, however cook from a previously existing flame. Globe Tribune.Info will not be posing articles until Thursday night, at around 9:12PM when the holiday ends.
Chabad.Org has the time for candle lighting in your location, as well as articles that can be printed out to be read during Shavuot. One article tells of different Torah scrolls from around the world.
Aish.com also has many interesting articles that can be printed out before the holiday. The current page has an article on the leadership qualities displayed by King David, the adversity he faced in life, and his humble origins that made him all the more empathetic a king to all classes of people in his kingdom. It is appropriate to mention King David on this holiday, since he was born and died on Shavuot. In addition, the book of Ruth (David’s great grandmother) is read on Shavuot. I find that his being descended from Ruth the convert gives him a connection to every single Jew, from someone with illustrious ancestry to someone who just converted this morning.
Aish.com also has an article that recreates the zeitgeist of savagery and chaos that existed at the time of the giving of the Torah.
During this holiday, the ten commandments are read in synagogue, in commemoration of the first time they were heard at Mount Sinai by the entire assembled Jewish people. Although Passover is the holiday of our liberation from Egyptian slavery, it was only a preparation for taking on the yoke of the commandments.
Ultimately, humans as individuals and as a society are animals with a higher intelligence than animals. Unfortunately, this very intelligence can be dangerous. Stalin and Hitler had reasons for doing what they did, and explained it in a manner that attracted millions of devotees. People have rationalised theft, adultery and even murder with compelling arguments. In a real sense, the mind is an anesthetic for the conscience when there is no moral compass. The yoke of Torah is in reality something that saves us from earthly slavery, to other humans and to our own desires.
It is critical to an understanding of the Jewish people that Passover was not an end in itself. We were not freed from Egyptian slavery without reason, but in order to take on the yoke of the commandments, and to be servants of G-d. Every set of rules, it should be noted, frees us even as it restricts us. Grammar confines our speech to certain conventions that give us the ability to express ourselves, to understand others and to communicate. Moral laws give us the ability to relate to each other. As Jews, we are given also commandments beyond reason to connect us to G-d.
In the account of the Exodus from Egypt, the struggle afterward for inner liberation is far more complex and difficult than the struggle against political and social oppression. This theme is not unique to the Exodus from Egypt, but is true of every liberation struggle since then. Not only in Jewish history, but in the history of every nation, it is a nation’s inner struggles that are most compelling.
It was an act of great mercy that G-d did not just create the world and leave us without guidance. It is this display of great mercy to the world of giving us commandments to guide us that we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. May the remainder of the year 5774 be a year of growth in observance of the laws that protect, strengthen and guide us.