For years I found the holiday of Shavuot to be elusive and amorphous. Lacking the grandeur of the High Holidays, the coziness of Sukkot and the intensity of Pesach, I couldn’t quite capture the emotion of the day. It had to be about more than cheesecake.
Shavuot has no visible symbol to wave about, no matzah, shofar, or menorah. While Sukkot and Pesach, the other two pilgrimage holidays, are a week a piece, Shavuot is a truncated single day (two outside of Israel). As a result, those intervening quasi-holidays, “chol-hamoed,” are strikingly absent, too. And yet it commemorates the day on which we received the Torah -- surely the basis for all the other holidays!
Many of us are familiar with the anthropomorphism of the marriage of G-d and the Jewish people. I got to thinking about that, and it led me to a deeper understanding of the asymbolic nature of the holiday.
So it is with us and G-d. While the other holidays highlight one aspect or our relationship with G-d, lending themselves to a symbol of some sort, Shavuot is about the essence of the relationship itself: our devotion to each other, our constancy, all of which elude being emblemized. No. The only fitting way to capture this, is to once more stand at Mount Sinai and say, “I choose you again!” To renew our vows with G-d.