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Spiritual Growth for Jews

The One Minute Guide to Shavuos

Posted on | May 27, 2014 | By Mark Frankel | 9 Comments

The foundation of Judaism is that there is a G-d, who is completely spiritual. G-d created both a physical and spiritual world. The centerpiece of creation is man who is composed of a physical body and a spiritual soul. Our collective purpose is to transform the world into a unified G-d connected spiritual world.

To accomplish this spiritual transformation G-d transmitted the necessary knowledge and tools in the form of the Torah. The Torah informs us how to turn physical acts into G-d connected spiritual acts. Every positive act we perform can be G-d connected, but the ones with the greatest connection power are the mitzvos G-d explicitly specified in the Torah.

The holiday of Shavuos is the day that G-d spiritually transmitted the Torah. The entire Jewish nation experienced this transmission and Moses experienced it to a much greater degree. The day is filled with a spiritual energy through which we can deepen our commitment to connect to G-d through the learning of Torah.

On Shavuos and other Jewish Holidays (Passover, Succos), there is a mitzvah to enhance the joy of the holiday with one special meal at night and one special meal during the day. In doing so we transform the physical act of eating into a spiritual G-d connected activity.

Chag Someach!

Comments

9 Responses to “The One Minute Guide to Shavuos”

  1. lacosta
    May 27th, 2014 @ 11:29 am

    why the reluctance to say the day G-d ‘physically transmitted the torah’

    your expression makes it sound less clear that
    the Voice was heard … sort of like the Conservative ‘something happened at sinai’….

  2. Mark Frankel
    May 27th, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    According to the Ramchal, prophecy is a spiritual, rather than a physical process.

  3. lacosta
    May 27th, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

    again, by deemphasizing the physical element, i think it opens up to the non-orthodox take that , ‘something happened’ but not akin to us
    lehavdil experience a rock concert/sporting event , but more a dream sequence….

  4. Mark Frankel
    May 27th, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

    Please take a look at Derech Hashem – specifically the section on prophecy.

  5. David_L
    May 28th, 2014 @ 10:38 am

    Mark, I don’t have a copy of Derech Hashem. Is there a online article that explains this? Are you saying that the Torah’s description of the Sinai Revelation is a metaphor, not to be taken literally?

  6. David_L
    May 29th, 2014 @ 10:39 am

    Or maybe “parable” would be a better term than “metaphor”.

  7. Mark Frankel
    May 29th, 2014 @ 10:48 am

    It is literal. It really did happen. The question is what was the actual prophetic experience.

    Here’s a translation of the relevant section from Derech Hashem.

    “The Soul, Inspiration, Prophecy, and the Supernatural”
    Ch. 5: “Moses as a Prophet”

    Paragraph 7

    We’ll now conclude this chapter on prophecy as well the whole third part of this work, which had focused upon such vast and recondite themes.

    Make no mistake about it — each and every prophet not only understood what he was envisioning, he also understood every nuance and implication, each of its mystical underpinnings, every grand theme it touched upon, its intentions, and why it was depicted to him the way it was. But he *also* understood that the image he’d envisioned was a created entity — and that it hadn’t anything to do with G-d Himself.

    For while the melange of prodigious and awesome abilities the prophets accrued had indeed enabled them to understand how G-d interacts with the world, the rock-bottom truth is that no one could ever grasp G-d Himself.

    For G-d’s essence can’t be envisioned on any level whatsoever, as He’s utterly above and beyond all visualization and conceptualization. That’s why our sages referred to prophetic visions as “visions of speech” — even the exalted and authoritative ones that Moses was granted, and the ones bestowed upon our people at Mount Sinai. For what they all experienced weren’t visions of G-d’s Himself so much as Divine statements about Him and His intentions which were depicted as visions.

    Thus this limitation served as one of the “veiled lenses” we cited before that obstructed the prophets’ views. Understand, though, that without such lenses (including the clear one that Moses saw through) the prophet would simply be *annihilated* by the sheer majesty and radiance of the revelation much the way we’d be blinded staring at the sun.

    That being said, don’t think the prophets’ visions were prosaic or little more than poetic inspiration. They were anything but that. For the prophets were granted insights into the mysteries of the universe outright and into the point of it all. They were not, though, granted insight into the makeup of their Author Himself; and therein lies the difference.

    We come now to the final section of “The Way of G-d”, termed “Divine Service”. In it we’ll touch upon the mitzvah-life and the effects each mitzvah has upon Heaven and Earth — as was unveiled by prophetic revelation.

    Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org.

    http://www.torah.org/learning/ramchal/classes/wog3-5g.html

  8. Bob Miller
    May 29th, 2014 @ 10:51 am

    A miraculous event can be so cataclysmic and outside our normal experience that it becomes impossible to describe the event fully in words. Fortunately for us, our souls were all there at Sinai to directly take in its totality. Even the prophetic experience has aspects that can’t be reduced to narrative. So the words stand for more than they can state explicitly.

  9. David_L
    May 30th, 2014 @ 7:37 am

    Mark & Bob:

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I think I’m finally starting to understand the Torah, I run into another concept that shows me how much more I have to learn. :)

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