On Sunday evening, May 22, Rabbi Yussie Zakutinsky, rav of K’hal Mevakshei Hashem in Lawrence and well-known speaker and author, spoke virtually on behalf of Let’s Get Real With Coach Menachem about expanding our avodas Hashem and how this connects to Shavuos. He shared that “the biggest brachah in the world is to realize how much Hashem loves us and how much we love Him.”
The only things we would die for are for Hashem, His Torah, and the Jewish people. Rabbi Zakutinsky stated: “That really defines us, so we should never underestimate our dedication to avodas Hashem.”
He shared that for people who aren’t frum or those not so connected to learning Torah, Shavuos poses a challenge. “We have to figure out how to open Shavuos for everyone.” Yiddishkeit is about truth and it’s not afraid of truth. “The nature of Yiddishkeit is when you go deeper it becomes more expansive.” Every mitzvah becomes bigger and more all-encompassing the deeper you go into it. Every Jew, every event, every moment of life is an opportunity to connect to Hashem through the 613 mitzvos.
The Yom Tov of Shavuos is only two days on the surface and it follows certain parameters. Once you go deeper, you realize that it’s more expansive than you thought and it’s more expansive in time. Rabbi Zakutinsky taught that there is an aspect of Shavuos in every day and in every Jew. What is that aspect in every Jew? Every Jew has a portion of Shavuos. If you see the mitzvos as rigid, then you haven’t seen the truth of truths. Every mitzvah is a piece of the neshamah. “The Jewish soul is the soul version of the Torah.” He asked, “What part of the soul is being activated on Shavuos? Every Jew has a portion in it, and it can be activated every day.
In the Torah, it doesn’t state that Shavuos marks the giving of the Torah. Rather, the Torah says that it’s the Yom Tov celebrating our redemption from Egypt. It’s the 50th day from Pesach. Technically, Shavuos doesn’t have to be the date of the giving of the Torah. So, he explained that what we are celebrating on Shavuos is not necessarily receiving the Torah. Shavuos is seen as the completion of leaving Egypt.
Egypt means fantasy or illusion. Leaving Egypt means to see reality as it is. What is the illusion or fantasy that a person is stuck in? There is a level of fantasy in the world and it’s the yeitzer ha’ra. Desires are all fantasy. Redemption from Egypt is our ability to escape fantasy and see that the yeitzer ha’ra is an illusion. On Pesach we have the ability to realize the truth: that desire and materialism don’t make us happy. Shavuos is completion of redemption from Egypt. The first level of getting away is leaving the yetzer ha’ra thinking that this will make me happy. The final fantasy is the illusion of thinking that this world is separate from Hashem. So, the ultimate escape from fantasy is escaping the illusion that this world is just this world. It means realizing every moment that G-d is communicating with us. That is what Shavuos is about.
The ultimate Shavuos moment in history was by Har Sinai. On Shavuos, we are celebrating the ability to break free from the illusion that everything in this world is just this world. On Shavuos, we are commemorating the ability of the Jewish soul to interact with the Creator, as every moment of life is an interaction with the Creator. Shavuos is celebrating that we hear G-d’s voice and we discern the message He is communicating to us.
When a person is learning Torah and honing his skills and senses, he is doing this to be able to hear Hashem’s voice communicating to him. That is why we learn Torah on Shavuos.
By Susie Garber