The sages tell us: “If the children of Israel needed the outstretched arm of G-d to free them from slavery, they also need a strong arm pointing them in the direction of becoming complete human beings.”
Malka Drucker has suggested that “Shavuot celebrates the summer harvest and becoming partners with G-d to perfect the world.” For her, “the holiday marks the one time G-d came close and spoke to the entire people, all 600,000, standing at Mount Sinai in the searing noonday sun.”
In Atlanta for Shavuot 5694/1934, HaRav Tuvia Geffen (my grandfather) of Congregation Shearith Israel said: “When Am Yisrael brought the bikkurim (first fruits) to the Beit HaMikdash, there was a feeling of happiness. The sorrow of the Omer had been concluded, and the new grain was a sign from G-d that the days of summer ahead would provide a deeper commitment to Torah and mitzvot.”
“Bikkurim and Torah complement each other and reinforce our faith and desire to follow G-d’s will here on Earth,” the noted scholar Berel Wein said. “Shavuot is more than cheesecake and an all-night Torah learning experience. It is rather the reliving of Sinai and its value system, its lofty goals and the long road ahead.”
These words by the poet John Greenleaf Whittier are appropriate for Shavuot:
We shape ourselves the joy or fear
Of which our coming life is made,
And fill our future atmosphere
With sunshine and with shade.
The tissue of the life to be
We weave with colors all our own.
And in the field of destiny
We reap as we have sown.
Rabbi Bernard Raskas pointed out the following: “What is the crux of the Aseret HaDibrot (Ten Commandments)? They must be written with a person’s lifeblood, or they are nothing. A believing Jew does not worship the Aseret HaDibrot; he lives them. He or she does not pay them lip service, but the individual gives them service of the mind and heart.”
“In a day of change, my Jewishness blesses me with a stability that comes from rootedness in time and history,” Rabbi Morris Adler said. “It gives me the freedom to find my place uncoerced in the large expanse of a great tradition which does not seek to drive me into a cell of dogmatic imprisonment. Judaism enables me to join my efforts for justice with the universal struggle for human rights for all.”
In Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov, there is a shoemaker who holds two doctorates from European universities. He has lived in Israel a very long time.
Dr. Sidney Greenberg, who knew him well, was anxious to learn why this man made aliyah.
A native of France, he described how a half-century ago he always talked about the need to “conquer” the Sea of Galilee, cleanse it of malaria and make it fruitful.
Suddenly, he thought, “Why not me?”
So to Israel he came, but he never stops asking, “Why not me?”
Greenberg concluded: “The glory of the human race are those who ask ‘Why not me?’ when there is great work to be done — visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, cheering the distressed, fighting for truth, protesting injustice, ensuring morality throughout the world.”
May our prayers be pleasing to You, O G-d, because the lips that speak them also speak words of hope and encouragement and great kindness to all.