This Shabbos we will read the first words of Bamidbar, the Book of Numbers. Then, on Sunday night, we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuos, the time of the giving of the Torah. The holiday is called Shavuos in the Torah, literally “weeks,” as the Torah commands us to count seven weeks from the beginning of Pesach (Passover) to determine when to celebrate Shavuos [Dev. 16:9-10]—rather than tying it to a date on the calendar like all other holidays.
This connects Pesach to Shavuos as clearly as Rosh Hashanah is connected to Yom Kippur ten days later, or like the holiday of Shemini Atzeres follows immediately after Sukkos. Our Sages teach that the nation of Israel had fallen through 49 levels of impurity in Egypt, and thus needed 49 days to elevate and purify themselves to be ready to receive the Torah. In Kabbalistic thought, the seven days and seven weeks of our counting interlink with seven Divine emanations, called sefiros.
Our Torah portion also begins with a count, of the Children of Israel. Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki’s first comment in Bamidbar is that, concerning the Children of Israel, “due to their preciousness before Him, He counts them all the time.” Rashi then gives particular examples of HaShem counting the Children of Israel in the Torah, but this doesn’t take away from what he said: HaShem counts us all the time. The same way we count from Passover to Shavuos, HaShem is counting each of us. We are placed on a journey towards HaShem, towards holiness, and HaShem is watching each of us, hoping to see us come towards Him.
The time of the giving of the Torah was,, of course, the closest our Nation ever came to HaShem—every Jew heard Him speak from within the fire on Mt. Sinai, to the point that they begged Moshe to hear and transmit G-d’s Word, since they could not survive hearing His voice directly. It is a time of elevation for us, in all generations, and the Torah that we take from the holiday of Shavuos remains with us and uplifts us throughout the year, as we continue our journey towards spiritual highs.
May this holiday of Shavuos help us to lift ourselves spiritually, and spark further growth in the year ahead. May we be able to make Shavuos truly count!