These celebrations suggest both the historical experience of the past and represent the effort in our own times to engage in rituals and observances that are particularly meaningful in the modern context. The modern State of Israel has achieved tremendous success in the agricultural sector and this is a source of great pride in the country. Shavuot becomes an opportunity to connect with the past and to celebrate and embrace the realities and accomplishments of the present.
In the absence of the agricultural context in the primarily urban centers in which we live, we may wonder how to make a meaningful connection between the agricultural and historical/spiritual aspects of Shavuot. The great scholar and teacher of the last century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, suggests that paying attention to the natural world can lead us to a greater understanding of the spiritual aspects of our tradition. He writes, “Only in moments when we are able to share in the spirit of awe that fills the world are we able to understand what happened…at Sinai. Revelation means that the thick silence which fills the endless distance between God and the human mind was pierced and man was told that God is concerned with the affairs of man; that not only does man need God, God is, also in need of man.”
Heschel reminds us how important is our sense of appreciation and our recognition of the daily wonder around us. If our minds and hearts are open to these experiences on a regular basis, only then can we attempt to reach for the understanding of an event so immense as a revelation. At the same time, we acknowledge the importance of ongoing learning to ensure that we continue to receive Torah in a meaningful way.