Vertluch: Shavuos 5772


We all know that on Shavous there’s a minhag to eat milchigs; although many meforshim offer various explanations, the Yeshuos Yaakov offers a fascinating explanation which I would like to share with you. Even prior to matan Torah the bnei Yisroel were performing the commandments of Hashem, as we’ve learnt from Chazal that the Avos performed mitzvos on their own. But once we-as a nation-were commanded to do them, it became more difficult. Once we were a mitzuveh v’oseh (commanded to do something) then the yetzer hara fights us harder not to do it.

The Alter from Kelm once said ‘there are many shadchanim. Some are good, some are bad, and some are even terrible. But even the worst shadchan in the world wouldn’t redd an animal to a person.’ The Ribono Shel Olam goes ahead and takes a spiritual neshomah and partners it up with a physical guf (body). How does that work? How can they possibly survive when they’re extreme opposites?

The answer is the foundation of Shavous. Every person is composed of two elements. Our goal is to make our spiritual being dominate the physical being. The gemara in Pesachim (68) says that Rav Yosef said if not for this day of matan Torah ‘kama ika Yosef b’shuka’, how many regular Josephs would there be in the marketplace? I would not have been any greater than anyone else out there. The obvious question is-where was the humility? Reb Yosef was known to be of the humblest of people. How can he say that he wouldn’t have reached such massive heights in Torah if not for this day? That seems not to sound too humble?

Yeshuas Yaakov says, that in reality the opposite is true. Reb Yosef said what he said because of his humility. Being he was blind he was exempt from all the mitzvos. He wasn’t included in the commanding of performing the mitzvos and therefore, the yetzer hara didn’t challenge him as much. Had the Torah not been given to klal Yisroel everyone else would’ve also been exempt from the Torah and its mitzvos and it would have been just as easy for them to perform the mitzvos- just like it is for me (with no yetzer hara challenging you).

The gemara in niddah (9a) asks-why is it that when a lady has a baby she doesn’t produce a flow of blood for the next twenty four months. Reb Meir answers that instead of a flow of blood, her body produces milk with which she can nurse with. The gemara asks, how does Reb Meir know this to be true? The answer given is that he learnt it from a pasuk. The pasuk says ‘who is the one that is able to extract a tahar (pure) thing from a tameh (contaminated) thing’. Reb Meir is learning that it’s referring to the blood that makes her tameh (contaminated) into that which is tahar (pure); milk. So he understands it to mean that Hashem makes this happen.

Says the Yeshuas Yaakov-what is the ultimate representation of transforming something tamei into something tahar? Milk! With this we understand why we eat milk products on Shavous. Just like Hashem transforms a tamei to a tahur the same is true by us Yidden. We have to take something that is tamei (ourselves) and transform it into something tahar. How do we accomplish this? The answer is through Torah. We eat milk because that represents this transformation. On Shavous we were given the Torah and through Torah we have the ability to transform a davar gashmi into a davar ruchni.

The Chofetz Chaim, in his introduction to his sefer likutei halachos-writes that the reason why honey is comparable to Torah is because if you drop a piece of bread into honey and it sits there for a while it will turn into honey. The same is true by Torah. If you indulge in it and sit with it (in it), eventually it will become part of you.

It’s up to each and every one of us to make the best out of the Yom Tov and to be able to transform ourselves through Torah and help create harmony between our neshoma and our physical body.

As we bring in the Yom Tov and we sit down to a milchige seuda let us not forget what it represents and it will hopefully enable us to elevate ourselves to a level where we will be worthy of receiving the ultimate geulah.