It is said that the Jewish calendar is like a cyclical rotating sphere. As we circulate through time every holiday we experience the same original energies permeating in the present as was there in the past of that momentous occasion where the holiday originated. This year is no different. As we enter Shavuot, we can be sure the energies we have available to us are the same as they were 3300 years ago.
This Shavuot, there is an even more significant energy that permeates in the air, for it is the 250th yartzheit of the revolutionist, philosopher, musician, poet, and righteous spiritual leader, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, otherwise known to the world as “The Baal Shem Tov”. The Baal Shem Tov was a man who had decided the world was ready for the secrets of the Torah that had otherwise been kept for the elite learners of the Jewish community to be revealed in volume. He is also known to the world as the very first Chassidic Master.
We have spent years trying to determine the secret to a happy life. Even the constitution of the United States claims that every man has the right “to the pursuit of happiness”. But with the failing economy, divorce rates up by fifty per cent, and the growing population taking anti depressants there is a very real question at hand which is, what can we do differently that will help us attain that pursuit of happiness we have all been promised?
The Baal Shem Tov was a wise man. He understood the secret to true self-discovery. He also understood that happiness is an inside job and that it takes a lifetime commitment of self -refinement and self- evaluation to receive everlasting happiness. There is no quick fix, but if we find the time to evaluate what is working and what is not working in our lives than we can learn the art of how to have healthier relationships, happier lives, and meaningful existences.
Shavuot marks the birth of the Torah, the blueprint of our lives that is meant to teach us the secrets to this quest. However, I have met many who have been exposed to the Torah as a set of laws that can feel constricting and have claimed to hinder their own self- expression. Self- expression is a vital tool into self- discovery. The reason why I love studying Chassidic mysticism so much is because it gives wise and articulate wisdom into how to tap into our own individuality while not betraying our personal goals as a human being to pursue happiness without sacrificing relationships, our Higher Power, our work or our art. It is the wisdom that gives us the light we need to maintain balance and serenity in an ever- confusing world. It is the secret to self -discovery.
On this night of Shavuot as we celebrate a time when humanity was graced with life’s blueprint, we can be sure the spirit of Chassidic revelation will grace our world as it did 250 years ago. May we merit to experience Judaism as it was intended, with the pursuit of self-discovery and happiness. May we have a very meaningful Shavuot, indeed.
As for me, I plan on spending Shavuot pursuing my happiness with a whopping slice of cheese cake followed by a good lesson on the principles of Chassidic philosophy that I am hoping will infuse me with so much inspiration, the cheesecake calories won’t even count.
*For more information on Chassidic self-discovery go to my two favorite websites:
meaningfullife.com and yeshiva.net.