In many ways, Erev Shavuos brings with it the idea of completion and perfection. This is seen most clearly in that it is the culmination of Sefiras HaOmer. The Torah dictates that there should be "seven complete weeks," and this is achieved only after all 49 days have been counted.
Through counting Sefirah, the entire world is brought to a state of perfection and completeness. The expression, "world," includes all levels of the creation, including the highest emanations and types of existence. By completing our count, we bring completion even to these heavenly realms.
How can our counting accomplish this? This can be understood by examining Rashi's explanation of the first word in the Chumash, bereishis. This unusual word alludes to "beis-reishis," i.e. the two original purposes behind the creation. The reason Hashem created the world, explains Rashi, is for the Jewish people, and for the Torah.
The purpose and perfection of the world are therefore dependent on the Torah, since it is the reason for its very creation. The conclusion of our counting signifies the completion of our preparations for the giving of the Torah, thereby bringing completeness to the world.
Furthermore, Sefirah brings about an additional elevation in the individual who does the counting. Both of these elevations are conveyed in the prayer which follows Sefirah, which states that through Sefirah, "abundant bounty is bestowed upon the worlds," and it "perfects our nefesh, ruach, and neshamah."
These two elevations occur every day of Sefirah. The unique quality of the last day is that the elevation -- of the person and of the entire scheme of creation -- is now complete.
Knowing the greatness of this achievement will certainly cause the person tremendous joy. Actually, all of Torah and mitzvos must be carried out with joy. How much more so when one completes the process of Sefirah, elevating oneself and the entire seder hishtalshelus.
There is a well-known story1 regarding a woman who sold her jewelry in order to give money for charity, and even polished the coins before sending them to the Alter Rebbe for distribution. In connection with this, the Alter Rebbe explained the verse u'sfartem lachem ("you shall count"); that u'sfartem, is related to the word "shine." He explained that one must make one's lachem ("you") shine, and that this is done through the process of counting the Omer, i.e. purifying one's middos.
There are several stages in this process. First one must purify one's own middos. Through this, one is able to purify and elevate the portion of the world connected with his soul. Furthermore, he effects those parts of the world, and those people that he comes in contact with, that they in turn should effect an elevation on others.
This chain effect is also hinted at in the word, u'sfartem, from the root, sippur, to relate a story. This indicates that the idea is not limited to one area, but rather spreads out to affect the entire environment.
There is a further lesson to be derived from the fact that sefirah is 49 days. It is not sufficient to count the seven weeks in general, but rather each day of each week must be counted separately. This is reflected in the purification of one's middos; not just all seven in general, but as each of them is itself composed of seven -- chesed she'b'chesed, gevurah she'b'chesed, etc.
We must purify and elevate our environment in a similar way -- making sure that every last detail is penetrated with G-dliness and fit to be a dwelling place for Hashem.
This purification must reach even the lowest aspects of the physical world, as we can see from the offering that was brought in connection with the Omer. This meal offering was unusual in that it was from barley instead of wheat.
The Talmud describes the difference between these two types of grain in that wheat is primarily for humans, whereas barley is mainly used for animal feed. This stresses that the concept of Omer (which, as mentioned above, is that of elevation and purification) must reach even the lowest areas. These mundane realms must be transformed into a korban, literally "close" to Hashem. Furthermore, this offering was communal, indicating that every single Jew becomes united in this elevation.
The elevation of even the lowest realms can also be seen through analyzing this week's Torah portion, Nasso. Chassidic discourses explain the opening phrase Nasso es rosh ("raise the heads"), that even the highest, symbolized by the head, must be elevated. In practice, however, we see that the only way to elevate the entire body, including the head, is by lifting the feet. Similarly, lifting even the lowest aspects of the world effects an elevation in the most sublime realms.
In personal terms, this means transforming one's animal soul until it too has a love for Hashem. When this is accomplished, the G-dly soul is also affected so that it too develops a more powerful type of love.
The end of the tractate Sotah (which is customarily learned during Sefirah) contains a lesson as to how one can purify the animal soul. There, the Talmud states that the "fear of sin" still exists, although the Mishnah implies that it has disappeared.
There are two levels of "fear of sin." One is that the person is afraid to sin because of the punishment which will follow. This level is imperfect, because the person might calculate that it is worthwhile to incur the punishment for the pleasure to be gained from the sin.
A higher level is when one fears the sin itself, i.e. he is afraid to be separated from Hashem, which is the natural result of the transgression. This type of "fear of sin" enables the person to gain control over his animal soul. Through this, he can eventually convince it to love Hashem, as mentioned above.
The points mentioned above all discuss Erev Shavuos as it is the day in which we complete the counting of the Omer. There is also a lesson to be derived from the day itself. On this day, the Talmud relates, Moshe "built an altar and brought an offering upon it."
It is understandable that the Talmud tells us that Moshe brought the offering, since an offering must be brought with certain kavanahs, etc., for which he was certainly the most fitting. What is the importance, though, of knowing that he built the altar, an act which could be done by anyone?
This can be understood in view of the other major occurrence of the fifth of Sivan, our proclamation na'aseh v'nishmah ("we shall do and we shall listen"). This bittul of the Jewish people -- to accept the Torah regardless of its content and their understanding of it -- prepared them so they should be fitting receptacles for the G-dly revelation on Mt. Sinai.
Similarly, the physical world had to be prepared, so that it could also be penetrated by G-dliness. This, of course, was the innovation of Mattan Torah, where we were given the ability to transform the physical world into a place of holiness.
Moshe was the one who initiated this on the fifth of Sivan by building an altar, "preparing" the stones, and through them, the entire physical world, to be receptacles for G-dliness.
Since, as explained in Tanya (Ch.42), every Jew has within a spark of Moshe Rabbeinu, this ability exists within all of us. Therefore, on the fifth of Sivan, when history is relived, we all receive a renewed ability to make the world into a dwelling place for Hashem.
[After the maamar, B'sha'ah Shehikdimu, the Rebbe Shlita continued,] in the maamar we discussed how one must be botul to Hashem's will, and on a higher level, to Hashem Himself (Ba'al HaRotzon), even before considering what in particular He wants. Nevertheless, this high level of bittul must find expression in even the lowest, most specified details of creation. Therefore, we must mention several specific projects which are of immediate importance.
First of all, we must all see to it that each and every Jew has all necessities for the festival. This is usually stressed before Pesach and Sukkos, due to the length of the holiday (and the consequently large number of meals) and the special mitzvos involved (matzah, sukkah, lulav, etc.).
Although Shavuos has neither of these factors, the Biblical obligation to rejoice (v'samachta b'chagecha) applies equally. Furthermore, Shavuos is unique in that the Talmud rules unanimously that one must rejoice through food and drink, in order to display our joy in receiving the Torah.
This is also the time to reiterate the necessity of insuring that all Jewish children be present in shul when the Ten Commandments are read. Even before this, we must see to it that every single Jew receives a letter in the Sefer Torah, uniting us as before Mattan Torah.
So, too, we must utilize Erev Shavuos to increase in the Mitzvah Campaigns, each of which has a special connection with Shavuos:
Ahavas Yisroel and total unity were the prelude to Mattan Torah, as the Jewish people encamped "as one person, with one heart."
The connection with chinuch is clear, in that at Mt. Sinai we all began to learn Torah, like children in school.
Torah study is, of course, the general idea of Shavuos.
Tefillin is, in the words of our Sages, comparable to all of the mitzvos. Mitzvos were the purpose of Mattan Torah, since "action is the main thing."
The mezuzah begins with the first parshah of Shema, which is the idea of na'aseh v'nishmah (as explained in the ma'amar).
Tzedakah must be given in proportion to the giver's ability. When we speak of Hashem's "tzedakah," obviously it is boundless, and fit for even the most wealthy person. This is connected with Mattan Torah, in that the prayer of Moshe is called "the prayer of a wealthy person," as explained in many places.
Bayis maleh sefarim is filling one's home with holy books of the Oral and Written Torah, given at Mt. Sinai.
The three mitzvos specially related to Jewish women -- taharas hamishpachah, kashrus, and Shabbos and Yom Tov candles -- also receive special stress on Shavuos. This is because Moshe was instructed to first approach the women regarding receiving the Torah, and only thereafter, the men.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the histalkus of the Rebbe Maharash. He was the one to give the famous instruction, lechatchilah ariber -- "go directly over" [any obstacles]. Since the Torah was given directly through Hashem's initiation (ani hamas'chil), it is also similar to this idea. It is therefore appropriate at this time to sing that niggun.
Our Sages say that, "The world stands on three things: Torah, avodah, and gemilus chassodim." We have learned Torah in the ma'amar, which was based on those of the Rebbeim. We will fulfill prayer by singing the song which requests that Hashem speedily build the Beis Hamikdosh. The third point will be satisfied by distributing dollars to be given for tzedakah.
May it be Hashem's will that He bestow upon us the blessings promised in the Torah portion Bechukosai, beginning with the blessing of peace -- a true peace, based upon the Torah. It is obvious that a "peace" which opposes the Torah cannot be a true nor a lasting peace.
In Eretz Yisroel, we must remain strong and not submit to the demands of the non-Jews, in that the Code of Jewish Law (Or.Ch., ch. 329) prohibits placing Jews in danger by giving away settlements. Certainly any plans to the contrary will be unsuccessful.
Furthermore, even if some people stubbornly insist on giving up these territories, Hashem will certainly influence the non-Jews to refuse them! This has been seen in the past, when offers to give land to the non-Jews were met with refusal and insult.
The superficial reason given was that they were not satisfied with just a few settlements, but this was only an external factor. The real reason is that Hashem's desires will ultimately be fulfilled, and even the non-Jew will not oppose them. Even should he not realize this, "his mazal sees," and prevents him from transgressing Hashem's will.
May we merit to see this in a revealed fashion, with true peace, speedily in our days.