The Apta Rav, zy”a, finished davening and walked to the other side of the beis medrash, where kiddush was prepared. Suddenly, he instructed that a surprising announcement be made.
“Whoever noticed whether or not the Rebbe made the brachah ‘She’asah li kol tzorki’ will get a kreppel from the Rebbe.”
A young boy (later known as Harav Moshe of Berditchev, zt”l), had managed to secure a place near the Rebbe during davening. He said that he heard the Rebbe recite Birchos Hashachar. The Chassidim made room for him to approach the Rebbe, and the young boy reported that the Rebbe had not, in fact, recited that particular brachah.
The Apta Rav rose and recited it with great fervor. He then explained:
Shavuos is akin to a wedding day; since a chassan and kallah are forgiven for all their aveiros on the day of their wedding, Shavuos too is a day of forgiveness. He had entered shul that morning thinking the kavanos of Yom Kippur and, therefore, forgot to say the brachah “She’asah li …” which, according to his minhag, is not recited on Yom Kippur.
* * *
In Seder Hayom by Harav Moshe ben Yehudah Machir, a Rav in Tzfas at the time of the Arizal, it says “all agree that the kedushah of Shavuos is greater than that of the other Yamim Tovim.”
Tonight begins Shabbos Parashas Bamidbar, the Shabbos before Shavuos, a day that, according the Beis Aharon of Karlin, is even greater than Shavuos itself! For all of the spiritual influences of the week emanate from the Shabbos preceding it.
So we are in the loftiest of days, yet when one stops to reflect, it is also a time when one may be engulfed in hopelessness. The Sefirah days begin with the loftiest of intentions, with sincere plans for self-improvement and growth. Now that we are in the last days of Sefirah, many are distraught to find that despite all their hopes, their plans went awry, and they are hardly further along in their path of teshuvah than they were six weeks ago.
Consolation is provided by the Kozhnitzer Maggid, zy”a, who states that even on the last day of Sefirah, even during the very last seconds, one can still rectify everything.
The Rachmastrivka Rebbe, shlita, once explained that these feelings of dejection — the emotions produced by reflecting how the days of Sefirah passed and how poorly one fared — trigger a sincere feeling of teshuvah.
This remorse and this commitment redeem the entire period of Sefirah.
* * *
The legendary founder of Mesivta Torah Vodaas, Harav Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, zt”l, was dancing with great fervor with his talmidim one Shavuos afternoon when he noticed a talmid — who lived in Lower Manhattan and had crossed the Williamsburg Bridge on foot to spend the afternoon in his beloved yeshivah — sitting and learning.
Rav Mendlowitz, who instilled in his talmidim an enormous level of hasmadah, nevertheless encouraged him to join the dancing.
“If you will not celebrate what you do have on Shavuos, you will not be able to teshuvah on what you don’t have on Yom Kippur,” he explained.
Not only are these two concepts not contradictory, but they are actually interrelated.
For he who fails to realize his yichus, who does not recognize his enormous potential as a member of a mamleches Kohanim, will not demand anything substantial of himself. He will be satisfied with his spiritual standing, however poor, for he will assuage his guilty feelings with the thought “What more could be expected from someone like me?”
We must rejoice with the fact that we are each a part of an am segulah, a people chosen for unique responsibilities and nearly infinite possibilities for spiritual growth. When we recognize our status we will also recognize our potential and set our aspirations and goals accordingly.
Shavuos is a day of intense study and equally intense joy. It is a day of forgiveness in a time of rectification. May we all merit to take full advantage of it.