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June 12, 2005


Oy. Just as things settle down enough for me to start blogging more, we get another holiday, Shavuot, known to many of you as the Feast of Weeks. No blogging until late Tuesday. For those of you who'd like more than an introduction, Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel has a Shavuot Journal worth checking out.

Jews were commanded to count seven weeks from Passover to another holiday known as Shavuot, literally "weeks." The holiday also commemorates the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. We read the Book of Ruth, as well as a mystical poem that nobody understands, called Akdamut. The hardier souls relive the excitement of the night before the giving of the Torah by staying up all night learning.

Passover and Shavuot are connected by the counting of the weeks in-between, indicating a spiritual connection between the two as well. If Passover represents freedom, Shavuot and the giving of the Torah provide the structure essential to keeping that freedom from degenerating into anarchy.

I've always made the comparison between Isaiah Berlin's "freedom from" and "freedom to" from his famous essay, "Two Concepts of Liberty." (Microsoft Word Doc). The one prevents other men from interfering in my life. The other provides me with the means to exploit that freedom. Either alone is subject to abuse, but together they allow a meaningful life.

Similarly, although not identically, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik describes in his long essay, "The Lonely Man of Faith" argues that there are two parts to man: Man who works and Man who seeks redemption. We must be both. I see Passover as enabling the first, and Shavuot as enabling the second.

See you Tuesday.

Posted by joshuasharf at June 12, 2005 07:15 PM | TrackBack

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