It is said that the Jewish calendar is like a cyclical, rotating sphere. As we circulate through time, on every holiday we experience the same original energies permeating the present as were in the past. The momentous occasion of the original holiday happens again. This year is no different. As we enter Shavuot, we can be sure the energies we have available to us are the same as they were over three thousand years ago.
Each year, when we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, we are receiving the Torah as if it were new. Therefore, we should approach our Jewish education in the same way. We must realize anew that the Torah is the purpose of Creation, and renew our dedication to grow Jewishly. When a Jew concentrates wholeheartedly on his Torah study to the point that nothing else exists for him while he is thus engaged, he becomes one with the Torah, a single indivisible, united entity.
Just as the Torah has the power to transform an uninhabitable place to a place compatible with life, so too does every Jew have the power to change the world around him by turning away from evil and doing good. When a Jew is involved in Torah study, he transforms the negative around him into positive.
Shavuot also marks the passing of the revolutionist, philosopher, lobbyist, and righteous spiritual leader, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem, otherwise known to the world as "The Baal Shem Tov."
It is the Baal Shem Tov who realized that the world was ready for the secrets of the Torah that had otherwise been kept for the elite scholars of the Jewish community to be revealed in volume. He is also known to the world as the very first Chasidic Master.
Society has spent eons trying to determine the secret to a happy life. Even the constitution of the United States claims that every person has the right "to the pursuit of happiness." But with the failing economy, divorce rates up by 50%, and growing numbers of the population taking anti-depressants, there is a very real question at hand: What can we do differently that will help us attain the pursuit of happiness we have all been promised?
The Baal Shem Tov was a wise man. He understood the secret to true self-discovery. He also understood that happiness is an inside job and that it takes a lifetime commitment of self-refinement and self-evaluation to achieve everlasting happiness. There is no quick fix, but if we find the time to evaluate what is working and what is not working in our lives, then we can learn the art of how to have healthier relationships, happier lives, and meaningful existences.
Shavuot marks the birth of the Torah, the blueprint of our lives that is meant to teach us the secrets to this quest. However, I have met many who have been exposed to the Torah as a set of laws that can feel constricting and have claimed to hinder their own self-expression. Self-expression is a vital tool into self- discovery. The reason why I love studying Chasidic mysticism so much is because it gives sage and articulate wisdom. It guides us to tap into our own individuality while not betraying our personal goals as human beings to pursue happiness without sacrificing relationships, our Higher Power, our work or our art. It is the wisdom that gives us the light we need to maintain balance and serenity in an ever-confusing world. It is the secret to self-discovery.
On Shavuot as we celebrate a time when humanity was graced with life's blueprint, we can be sure the spirit of Chasidic revelation will grace our world as it did over 250 years ago. May we merit to experience Judaism as it was intended, with the pursuit of self-discovery and happiness. May we have a very meaningful Shavuot, indeed.
On this holiday of Shavuot, while rejoicing in the precious gift of our holy Torah, let us pray fervently and ask G-d to send us Moshiach, so that we may all be able to learn Torah in a world completely transformed into a place of holiness.
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