There is a story of two children, the best of friends, Yosef (a Jew) and Ahmed (an Arab), that grew up in Morocco.
One day, Ahmed suggested a wonderful new game we to play.
Always up for a good game, Yosef immediately accepted.
“Let’s play the festival game. “
Ahmed said, “I will go first, the way it works is like this. I mention an Arabic festival, and each time I do, I am able to give you a Chapa – slap. Once I finished, if you’re still standing, it’s your turn to mention every Jewish festival and you can give me a slap for each one.”
Ahmed reckoned he was easily on the upper hand here and he started with immediate effect.
“Eid el Fatar!” came a shout and then a whack. “Eid zatar!” and then another whack. “Now for the killer – Ramadan… day one, day two, day three etc.”
Each time poor Yosef received a smack.
After a few minutes Yosef was still standing and Ahmad had run out of festivals.
Yosef’s face started to beam.
“My turn! Rosh Hashanah!” he said as he drew his hand to slap.
“Yom Kippur, Succot, Chanukah, TuBishvat Purim, Pesach.”
Then Yosef paused.
Ahmed thought he must have run out of festivals, but he was surprised at Yosef’s next move.
“Well” said Yosef, “According to the Ramban, Pesach is a Yom Tov and Shavuot is a Yom Tov and all the days in between are considered like CholHamoed!”
“HaYom Yom Echad Laomer!” Slap. “HayomSheneiYamimLaomer!” Slap.
By the time he finished the Omer, Ahmad had long given in.
We are a nation blessed with festivals! From the SheloshRegalim to the counting of the Omer, from the weekly Shabbat to the yearly Yom Kippur.
But there are two times a year when the festivals seem to recede.
The first is after a month of Selichot – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succot, we find ourselves in a void. Once we leave Succot behind, we enter a period of no festivals. The whole month of Cheshvan seems empty and we are left waiting until Chanukah for our next festive stop.
The second void is now. After Shavuot, there is no real festival (unless Bezrat Hashem we are blessed with the overturning of Tisha B’av) until Rosh Hashanah. We have a long summer ahead.
The Klausenberg Rebbe once told over an interesting Mashal to explain our situation.
There was a rich king who developed a fantastic nation. Wanting to ensure his reign remained for a long time; he sought the best Doctor to be by his side. Searching for many months up and down the country, he managed to find the most unbelievable Doctor. This Doctor stayed by his side through thick and thin, and always had remedies for any illness.
Always at the Kings service, the Doctor remained with the king for thirty years.
One day the Doctor received word that his mother had become ill. She lived in a far off land and it would take him a few months travel and attending her needs before he would be able to return. The king was very worried, if the Doctor left; he would be vulnerable to disease and wouldn’t know how to treat his illness. He insisted the Doctor stay.
The Doctor refused, but ensured the king that no harm would befall him.
“Don’t worry your honour, I will be back, but I must go to attend my dear mother. Before I leave I would like to give you a special capsule. If you are ever in danger, or have any illness, take this capsule and you will become better.”
The King was now assured and let the Doctor go on his way.
The Klausenberg Rebbe explained that over the past few months Hashem has stayed with us, we have merited His glory and celebrated with Him throughout this festive period.
However now He is leaving, and in order to keep His presence amongst us, we should take the capsule.
The Torah is our medicine, it gives us life and it connects us constantly with Hashem. It is particularly at this time of year, having come out of MaamadHar Sinai that we should aim to strengthen our Torah learning.
This week’s Parsha, Naso, describes the role of the Levites as carrying the portable Mishkan (sanctuary) and its furniture. Two of the Levitical clans were given wagons and oxen with which to transport the disassembled Mishkan. The clan of Kehat, however, responsible for carrying the ark and the other holy furniture of the Tabernacle, were not given wagons.
The Minchat Ani asks, why were they singled out not to carry their lot on wagons. Why did they have to carry on their shoulders?
He explains that the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark) which had within the Luchot (Ten Commandments) represents Torah.
Hashem wanted to send a message that Torah is not acquired by sitting back. Torah is acquired by hard work and toil. Only one who is prepared to get personally involved carrying the Torah with his shoulders, is one who can succeed in acquiring Torah. Thus the clan of Kehat were instructed not to use wagons, but rather to get personally involved and carry on their shoulders.
In fact we are told that once they decided to go ahead and physically work hard in honour of the Torah, they found that they were helped from above.
The Gemara in Arachin (11a) interprets the Torah’s phrase “they lifted it on the shoulder” (Bamidbar 7:9) to mean that the Kehatites lifted up their voices in song as they carried the ark.
The Chafetz Chaim, enlarges the rabbis’ vision by teaching that “the ark carried its carriers.” Not only did those who carried the ark feel no burden, but they felt themselves swept off their feet, uplifted by their task. They experienced the exquisite lightness of being, in carrying the heavy furniture of the sanctuary. It was, for them, an indescribable joy.
As we exit Shavuot and enter the summer, let us fill the void. Take this important capsule that will ensure our lives, commit to toiling in Torah, whether it’s finding a new Shiur to join, or an extra five minutes in the day to learn.
Like the Kehatites, we are assured to be pleasantly surprised as Hashem will uplift us, and we in turn sing out His Praise.