Tefillah Tips - Shavuot
Since the three pilgrimage festivals commemorate and celebrate our historical and present relationship with the Creator and the miracles He has performed for us throughout the ages, the prayers we recite on these holidays reflect our recognition and appreciation of G-d's omnipotence and ultimate kindness manifested at these time periods in history.
The Amidah / Silent prayer that we offer during every Tefilla throughout Shavuot as well as Pesach and Sukkot contain much of the same content. After the opening three blessings the prayers continue "Ata Bichartanu Mikol Ha-amim... Vekidashtanu Bemitzvotecha - G-d You have chosen us from all of the nations in the world. You have loved us, and desired our service, and elevated us above all other cultures and tongues. And You have sanctified us with your Mitzvoth"
The phrase "You have sanctified us with your Mitzvoth" needs clarification. How does the performance of Mitzvoth sanctify us? We actually say this formula regularly in many blessings that we recite- "Asher Kidishanu Bimitzvotav - That He has sanctified us with His Mitzvoth." If we understand this concept it will add meaning to every Yom Tov that we celebrate not to mention all the brachot we recite daily.
One approach that explains, "You have sanctified us with your Mitzvoth," is that since Mitzvoth are commanded by G-d, and G-d is the King of Kings our performance of these mitzvoth are a connection to eternity and the divinity. Therefore every Mitzvah one fulfills is elevating because it is living life in a G-dly way.
The Etz Yosef advances a different thought when he comments on this passage and remarks: G-d's laws are unlike the laws of human kings and governments. When a government passes a law, it is legislated for the benefit of the nation as a whole. For example, one pays taxes for the benefit of the society at large. The laws of Hashem - Mitzvoth - are not only for the benefit of society at large, but for the growth, purification, and benefit of the person fulfilling the law as well. Our sages taught: "Lo Nitna Torah Elah Letzaref Et Habriot- The Torah was given in order to refine humanity." In effect - putting on Tefillin not only fulfills the Torah commandment to do so but benefits the person spiritually as well. The same is true for Kashruth, Shabbat, and Mikveh.
It is this that we celebrate on all of the holidays - especially on Shavuot. For it is on Shavuot 3318 years ago that the Torah was transmitted to Moshe at Sinai and the world with Torah and Mitzvoth in it has never been the same since.
It is my hope and prayer that the Jewish people as a whole will say again "Naasheh Venishmah- We will do and we will listen" in order that we will experience soon the return to Zion and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.