Lessons from Shavuot
Tomorrow we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, which literally means” weeks” and marks the end of the seven weeks of counting of the Omer that started on Pesach.
We celebrate receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai by learning Torah, and some stay up all night to learn. The Torah refers to Shavuot as חג קציר (Festival of Reaping),an agricultural holiday when the wheat was harvested in the Spring .
It’s also referred to as Chag Aviv (the Spring Festival) which marks the beginning of the new planting season.
The Torah also mentions the holiday as Yom HaBikkurim, when people would bring Bikkurim or offerings of their first and best fruits as an offering to the Temple.
Shavuot requires no special preparation, unlike other holidays such as building a Sukkah or cleaning out our chametz for Pesach.
Besides counting the omer, how else can we prepare ourselves more to connect to the holiday? What other significance might we find in Shavuot?
Out of many themes and explanations of the holiday, there is also an idea of receiving (the Torah) and also of giving (from our finest fruits and the seven species of the Land of Israel).
We received –and continue to receive– this gift of laws with love and we also are meant to give wholeheartedly.
Many of us are better at giving than we are at receiving.
In many cultures and religions, giving is encouraged and even commanded, but receiving? Not so much.
Maybe we were brought up to believe that It is a sign of weakness or selfishness to receive and we should be self-reliant. Maybe we don’t feel worthy. And maybe we don’t trust the giver’s intentions.
Do you feel embarrassed when you get a compliment? Do you discount what the person says?
Are you uncomfortable in accepting gifts and find yourself saying, "You shouldn’t have”?
How do you respond when someone offers to help you? Do you feel awkward or tense in your body?
Receiving from others increases the feeling of connection to them.
It deepens our relationships and makes them less one-sided and more reciprocal.
And it makes the other person feel good too!
Family therapist and author John Amodeo writes about mindfulness and how to deepen relationships. He offers a couple explanations as to why it’s hard for some us to receive in his book, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships”
Receiving creates connection. Prioritizing giving over receiving may be a way to keep people distant and our hearts protected. Receiving allows us to get closer to someone.
Letting Go- when we give, we’re in control in a certain way. It might be easy to offer a kind word or buy someone flowers, but can we allow ourselves to surrender to the good feeling of receiving a gift?
Receiving invites us to display a vulnerable part of ourselves.
That’s not so easy for some people.
When we receive gracefully we are allowing the giver a chance to give, and we are allowing both ourselves and them blessings. And this enables a real connection.
When we received the Torah on Mt Sinai, there was a reciprocal giving and receiving, and a brit (covenant) was made, allowing for a deep and loving relationship between G-d and Am Yisrael.
How would you like to respond the next time someone offers you a compliment, a gift or some help ? Are you avoiding a closer connection with people around you?
Imagine receiving with more ease and with an open heart the next opportunity that comes along, and forming a deeper connection to that person.
John Amadeo writes:
“The parched earth can’t let in a life-giving rain if it is covered by plastic tarp. Without the capacity to be touched by caring and appreciation, we render these gifts less meaningful. Receiving, letting things in with heartfelt gratitude, is a gift to the giver! When we are visibly moved, it conveys that they’ve made a difference in our lives. We may then bask together in a moment in which there is no distinction between the giver and the receiver. Both people are giving and receiving in their own unique ways. This shared experience can be profoundly sacred and intimate—a moment of delectable grace.”
May you allow yourself to give AND receive with an open heart, and deepen connections to people around you on this Chag Shavuot, and always.
*This blog is dedicated to my dear husband and wonderful friends who have taught me (and continue to teach me) so much about giving AND receiving. I am blessed.