By Rabbi David Fain, Rav Beit Hasefer
In a world where distractions are increasing, and focusing on our values and priorities is becoming more challenging, the holiday of Shavuot offers us a moment to reflect on what is important to us as a Jewish people, the gift of Torah. The Torah is more than a book of history. The Torah breathes our values and traditions, and most importantly, presents the purpose and mission for the Jewish people.
Until the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Jewish people were wandering the desert, grateful to no longer be slaves in Egypt, but lacking meaning and a destination. At the exact moment when the Jews were standing at Har Sinai to receive the Torah, Rashi, the biblical commentator, says that the Jewish people were כאיש אחד בלב אחד , as one person with one heart.
How could it be that over 600,000 people stood as one? What does Rashi really mean by this comment?
Rashi means that we stood as one people with a singular purpose, focused on receiving our mission from God as a nation: לתקן עולם במלכות שדי, to fix the world with the help of God. We say this phrase three times a day at the end of every tefillah in the עלינו prayer. Aleinu means it is upon all of us. It is upon all of us to repair the world, or at least to make it a better place, but to do it within our context as Jewish people.
In today’s world full of division it is hard to fathom all Jews, let alone all of humanity, being united for a cause. But with God’s help, we can try. We can strive to improve the world by not just fixing that which needs repair, but also through helping others and connecting with people, one person at a time. To me, this brings forth Mind and Soul. Better Together. Our motto at Hillel involves the soul that makes each of us unique. True repair requires connecting with people’s neshamot, and allowing each person’s neshama to shine.
So as we prepare for Shavuot on June 10-11, when some stay up all night on the eve of the holiday to learn Torah (an experience I encourage everyone to try at least once), I want to offer that a real goal of the holiday can be to take time to focus on our mission as Jews, and contemplate how is each of us partnering with God to make the world a better place.
And then decide to answer that question with action, with your children. Choose to do something with them that realizes the directive לתקן עולם במלכות שדי, repairing the world with the help of God. This is our unique purpose, this is our mission as Jews, and this is the Shavuot message we must live out with our children.