(First day: Exodus 19:1-20:23)
(Haftara: Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12)
(Second day: Shabbat: Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17)
(Haftara: Habbakuk 2:20-3:19)
1. [Exodus 20:10] In the 10 Commandments, Shabbat is characterized as a day of rest. Why not characterize it as a day of prayer, or a day of thought and meditation, or a day spent with family and friends?
2. [1st day, haftara] The Torah reading the first day is the 10 commandments. The haftara is the very mysterious, mystical experience of Ezekiel. By choosing these very different readings, what message do our rabbis want to convey?
3. [2nd day, Deuteronomy 15:9] On the 2nd day of Shavuot, which is Shabbat this year, we read about lending money to the needy and other acts of kindness. The 1st day we read about revelations of God and other mystical experiences. Why is there this separation? Why not read about both kindness and revelations on both days?
4. [Megillat Ruth] We read the book of Ruth on the 2nd day of Shavuot. The main theme of the book of Ruth is kindness. To give a more realistic picture of Judaism, shouldn’t the book of Ruth have more laws?
5. Shavuot is also the festival of the 1st fruits. Farmers brought their first fruits to Jerusalem. Why is it fitting that the giving of the Torah and the celebration of the first fruits should fall on the same day?
[Ruth 3:18] “The man will not rest unless he finishes the thing (the marriage) today.”
Boaz wasted no time and insisted that he do the act of kindness and marry Ruth immediately. The midrash tells us that if Boaz had waited another day, it would have been too late. We know that King David and the Messiah are the descendants of Boaz and Ruth. This comes to tell us that in relation to acts of kindness, one must act immediately and waste no time.
–R. Yisrael Mayer Kagan, the Chafetz Chaim—Radin, Poland