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    There are some childhood memories that
    one never forgets. Memories that remain
    etched in your heart and soul. Memories
    that even years later can be seen in your
    mind’s eye. For me, one such memory is of
    a special Shavuos.
    I grew up in North Woodmere, a New York
    suburb, where my parents were the Rabbi
    and Rebbetzin of Ohr Torah. At the time, it
    was the only Orthodox shul in the area.
    They settled there with the dream of
    bringing Yiddishkeit and Jewish life to the
    community. Their home had an “open door
    policy”, and so many were drawn in by the
    warm and inviting atmosphere.
    Sharon was one of the many who found
    inspiration in the Rabbi’s and Rebbetzin’s
    Sharon had come home from college
    shortly before Pesach, on her Spring break,
    only to hear that her beloved grandmother,
    who was so much a part of her life, was
    diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis
    wasn’t good. The doctors didn’t have much
    Sharon turned to my parents for support
    during that difficult time.
    Pesach was approaching. My mother a”h
    suggested that Sharon, together with her
    grandmother, Mrs. Block, take on the
    mitzva of counting Sefira, as a z’chus, a
    Sharon was determined to fulfill this
    mitzva, and extended her stay at home. She
    and Mrs. Block began to count. One week,
    two weeks, three weeks… never missing a
    night. Grandmother and granddaughter
    counting together. Five weeks, six weeks,
    defying the doctors’ prediction. A miracle.
    Seven complete weeks. Forty-nine days.
    And then it was Shavuos, the count was
    Shavuos day. After shul, my father zt”l
    lovingly wrapped the holy sefer Torah in a
    taalis. My parents, together with members
    of the shul and their families, marched
    down Hungry Harbor Road, from the shul
    towards Sharon’s home.
    My father brought the Torah into the living
    room where Mrs. Block was resting on a

    hospital bed. Even though she was weak
    and ailing, she gathered her strength and
    cried out together with my parents “na’aseh
    v’nishma – I will do and I will listen”, the
    very same pledge our ancestors recited
    over three thousand years ago at Har Sinai.
    Na’aseh v’nishmah. A pledge we continue
    to say today.
    The next day, Mrs. Block’s neshama
    ascended to the heavens and returned to its
    Creator, taking with it the mitzva of
    counting Sefira, and declaring na’aseh
    “With our young and our elders we will
    go… with our sons and our daughters…”
    (Shemos 10:9) Moshe’s words to Pharaoh
    come to mind as I recall the story of Sharon
    and her grandmother. “With our young and
    with our elders…” From the ancient
    civilization of Egypt, to the modern-day
    suburb of North Woodmere, young and old
    together, we turn to HaShem.
    Shavuos night was always special in my
    parents’ home. My father would lead a
    Torah study learning with members of the
    shul seated around our dining room table.
    At midnight, my mother would take us
    children out to the back porch. She would
    tell us that at that very moment, the
    heavens were opening up. HaShem is
    waiting for us to proclaim “na’aseh
    v’nishma” just as the Jewish nation did at
    My mother told us how our ancestors
    pledged their children as the guarantors
    of the Torah, and that now, we were the
    guarantors of our generation. HaShem
    was waiting to hear the powerful words
    of “na’aseh v’nishma” from us. It was up
    to us to continue on with the unbroken
    chain from Sinai.
    As I looked upward, gazing into the night
    sky, I was certain that I saw the heavens
    “The giving of the Torah happened at one
    specific time. But the receiving of the
    Torah happens all the time, in every
    (Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, the first Ger
    Rebbe; 1799-1866)
    Shavuos isn’t merely an historical event,
    commemorating the past. It marks a
    continuous commitment for each
    generation to reaffirm its acceptance of
    HaShem’s Torah. No matter what comes
    our way, we stand ready to proclaim
    “na’aseh v’nishma”. While the word

    “Shavuos” means “weeks”, representing
    the seven weeks between Pesach and the
    receiving of the Torah, it also alludes to the
    word “shevua”, meaning a vow, a promise,
    for on Shavuos we renew the vow to make
    Torah the centrality of our lives. In return,
    HaShem vows His eternal devotion to us,
    and keeps His promise to us as His chosen
    HaShem gifted the Torah to us, but unlike
    other gifts, it comes with the responsibility
    of “living the gift” — keeping mitzvos,
    doing good deeds and being an ohr lagoyim,
    a light unto the nations of the world.
    We learn about our nation standing at Sinai
    and receiving the Torah in Parshas Yisro.
    “In the third month from the Exodus of
    Bnei Yisroel from Egypt, on this day, they
    arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai” (Shemos
    “Bayom hazeh, on this day”. Rashi
    questions why the words “bayom hazeh –
    on this day” are used. Wouldn’t it have
    been more correct for the Torah to state
    “bayom hahu – on that day”?
    Rashi explains that the receiving of the
    Torah should be chadoshim – fresh and
    new, k’ilu hayom nesanam – as if it was
    given to us each and every day.
    Bnei Yisroel arrived to Sinai on a spiritual
    high in anticipation of receiving the Torah.
    The Chumash tells us “on this day…”
    Don’t lose the inspiration, the excitement
    of something new. Like the first time we
    put on a special outfit, drive a new car, or
    visit an exotic new country – we get a thrill.
    So too, when it comes to Torah, that special
    feeling of chadash – newness, should
    remain with us always.
    Bayom hazeh. On this day. Every day.
    Na’aseh v’nishma. We will do, we will
    listen, we will accept. Words not just for
    Shavuos, but words for each and every day.
    Words of the soul.