The Zohar/Rav Brandwein Writings
Kabbalah News/Essays Search Our Site Kabbalah Audio Files Contact Us Home
THE ESSENCE OF SHAVUOT
by: Rav Avraham Brandwein, Dean
The Gemara, in Massechet Shabbat 88/1, says, "B"H who gave a triple Torah (i.e., Tanach) to a triple nation (i.e., Cohanim, Levi'im, Yisrael), by means of a triad (i.e., Moshe was born 3rd after Miriam and Aharon) on a triple day (i.e., after 3 days of purification at Sinai) in the third month (i.e., Sivan that comes after Nissan and Iyar)."
One must understand the special meaning of triads (i.e., a triple entities). Our Mitzvot are special in that the Torah doesn't require of us to abandon material life. At the same time, it requires of us not to sink into materialism. The sacred and the material are to be integrated. Accordingly, the Torah doesn't ask self-denial of us but rather to eat of both vegetable and animal. But this eating is conditioned by Mitzvot related to the vegetable world (i.e., Ma'assrot, etc.) and to the animal world (i.e., only kosher animals, ritually slaughtered, etc.).
The same principle applies to marital relations (i.e., Taharat HaMishpacha) and Midot in general. For example, take Chessed (kindness). If we give without measure, we can bring damage through overindulgence. As Chazal said, "Those who are compassionate to the cruel end up by being cruel to the compassionate." Accordingly, in Parshat Kedoshim when dealing with the laws of incest, the term "Chessed" is used in the negative sense. On the other hand, if we overemphasize Din (i.e., discipline tending to cruelty), the counterpart of Chessed, it also brings negative results. Chessed and Din must be combined to bring us to the middle column, "the golden mean."
Now we can understand what the Gemara is saying to us. This is the very meaning of Torah and of the people of Israel -- to keep the Torah and Mitzvot in the synthesis of triads. We can now, also, understand the three festivals -- Pesach, Shavuot and Succot. Pessach and Succot each have seven days while Shavuot has only one. Pessach represents Chessed as Jeremiah says, "I recall your Chessed when you left Egypt in order to enter the desert." Succot is called "days of Din" because we pray for rain, called "Gvurot" (i.e., Din). But Shavuot, the day of the giving of the Torah, combines Chessed and Din and thus needs be only one day. It is not a Midah in its own right but a synthesis.
The middle column is a difficult path and a person must concentrate on the correction of his Midot by scrupulously keeping Torah and Mitzvoth with special care not to fall into excessive Din, anger, impatience, etc. but to keep impulses within balanced bounds especially in dealings with others.