bread, harvest, Passover, Shavuot, Shavuot miracles

Miracles Just Below the Surface (and an Awesome Manicure)

Shavuot is in a few days, and you know what that means. 

Time for my Shavuot nails.
I was actually considering not getting my nails done in such a fancy way and just getting a regular manicure, but Josh thought that the kids would be so disappointed and I should do it for them. What a funny life I lead. 
While some people prepare for Shavuot by running around finding cream cheese and making cheesecakes, and others prepare with the Torah learning they are planning for that evening, I prepare like this:

That is some manicurist that I’ve found! Look at the details!
While I enjoy being playful and having my nails reflect my life, I’m also trying to take some time to get ready for the holiday. I recently read a beautiful piece about it. Les Saidel, a master baker and CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute discussed the transition from Passover to Shavuot. He explained that at Passover we have unleavened bread. It is straight-forward, bare-bones and made of only flour and water. The miracles at Passover are straight-forward as well. You can see the plagues; you can see the Jews escaping Egypt; you can see the sea parting.
At Shavuot, however, we eat leavened loaves. The wheat harvest that occurred right at the time of Shavuot was celebrated by bringing two loaves as Temple offerings. These loaves were leavened wheat loaves mixed with a mature sourdough starter and then baked in the Temple ovens on the day before Shavuot. The loaves have hidden ingredients in them (the sourdough yeast) which works in mysterious ways to make them rise; so, too, do the miracles of Shavuot work in hidden ways. At Shavuot, we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai which includes so many hidden miracles. We never see HaShem directly; there are many gifts in the Torah that we don’t fully understand; and there is much learning to be done throughout our lives with this gift.

We spend the 49 days from Passover to Shavuot counting. Why are we counting? We are counting in anticipation of the date when we received the Torah. We are counting as we move from the barley harvest to the wheat; we are moving from a spiritual plain where we have miracles that we can see and understand towards ones that are much more hidden. As the flat bread eaten on Passover rises over these 49 days into the leavened loaves offered for Shavuot, it is our job to rise up spiritually and to try to attain a level of appreciation fitting for a people who receive the Torah.

I love this image of the bread slowly rising from Passover to Shavuot, as we slowly rise in our appreciation for the miracles we have in our lives, both ones that we can see and those that live just below the surface or beyond our reach.

It is not always easy to appreciate everything that we have; it’s not easy to be grateful for things that we don’t readily see or for events that don’t appear to be going our way. But there are many hidden miracles being offered to us all the time, and if we dig deeper within ourselves, if we count our blessings, we just might be able to start to see more of the miracles that surround us.

Hopefully, if we’ve gotten in the habit of counting in these 49 days, we may continue to count our blessings, the miracles in our lives and the wonders of the world that live just below the surface of what we see.

May it be a sweet and uplifting Shavuot and the beginning of a beautiful harvest season and summer for everyone.

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