Shavuot is a time of gifts. Along with the Torah, the greatest gift Gd gave us at Mount Sinai, He also gave us many other gifts. Every year Shavuot comes and these gifts are poured into us again for 24 hours.
These 24 hours are imbued with great and lofty ideas! – the mighty event of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, Megillat Ruth, which ends with the lineage of King David (who was born and died on Shavuot), and our marriage contract with Gd (there are various symbolic marriage contracts with Gd in Jewish literature for the holiday of Shavuot, which are full of love and deep meaning).
I would like to talk about “Stopping.” Shavuot is called “Atzeret,” which means to stop. Every holiday brings with it many things to do before and during the holiday. Passover requires massive preparations, purchasing matzot, wine, and all the holiday foods, and then there is seder night. Sukkot finds us building and decorating the sukkah and then picking out the lulav and etrog. Hanukah includes the candle lighting and the special doughnuts. Purim features the megillah and the other mitzvot of the day. Shavuot requires no special preparations (excluding the cheesecake that is really optional). You do not need any special preparation for Shavuot!
You do not need to go to the synagogue to hear the Ten Commandments nor do you need to bake cheesecakes even if all your friends do. Shavuot is all about “stopping”!
Imagine a young couple that runs around taking care of the house and the children, buys what they need, and then they look at each other and say: we need a time out to recharge, to give each other strength (this is a good thing to do, by the way, that really helps). The Netivot Shalom explains: In this same manner, exactly, Gd says: “Do not prepare anything special. Let us take a break and recharge. I will understand you and you will understand me. I will strengthen and heal you and will bring you gifts from heaven.” Shavuot is a time of quiet. At the giving of the Torah not one bird tweeted (nor did our cell phones or Twitter)!
This stopping actually takes place twice a year. One time is on the eighth day of Atzeret, after seven days of Sukkot and all the high holidays. This eighth day is a call to stop and take stock of all the gifts of all the previous days. The other time is, as we said, Shavuot, which is meant to take stock of the gifts of Passover and the counting up to receiving the Torah.
The Noam Elimelech says that a Torah scroll has holy letters written in it. But the parchment itself is considered even holier, as it encompasses the holiness of all the letters written on it. The same is the case with Shavuot. It is like the parchment that encompasses the holiness of all the other holidays preceding it. Passover preparations, checking for chametz, burning the chametz, seder night, the intermediate Passover days, counting the Omer, Lag B’Omer, the light of the counting and of Rabbi Shimon; all of this is packed into Shavuot. Since this is the case, you do not prepare anything. Just stop and take it all in! Let Gd help you absorb the treasures He is giving you.
Your only preparation is to fashion yourself into a receptacle for all of Gd’s gifts. You may ask: but how do I do this? How do I fashion myself into a receptacle for blessing? How do I receive the Torah? You accept by accepting. You can become a receptacle of Gd’s blessings by accepting upon yourself even a small resolution.
Before the receiving of the Torah there was thunder and lightning. Afterwards there were voices and torches. Lightning lights up the sky for a flash, a torch lights it up for a long time, so long as there is fuel. Before we received the Torah there were flashes of light, but after we accepted the Torah with the words, “We will do and we will listen” that light became a sustained light, like a burning torch. In this same manner, our accepting of even the smallest resolution will bring us a sustained light of blessing that will remain with us.