In many ways the most influential holiday in the whole Torah is Shavuot, because the Torah has to come from somewhere, and the place and moment where heaven and earth meet enough for anew clarity, an eternal and infinitely true resolution that becomes our whole lives clarity from then on: has to happen somewhere.
Because in the absence of a Torah, of a derech, of clear priorities, is Tohu and Bohu, Chaos and Desolation, which are also identified with Heaven and Earth, the two first witnesses to the Torah’s promise. Before anything can come together, space for One to be One and Second to be Second; for real to be real, the dream needs space to be a dream, and all the spaces in between made of respect, in the form of distance.
And so, the main thing the Torah is telling us, in the first moments of the first words of however many commandments were heard from H-shem directly: I am, and also, the other must not be before. Why say that?
Because the greatest secret of an Ohev Shalom is how much space we all need. To be who we are, distinct and weirdly perfect, כולם קדושים and it’s once we have permission to be who we are that we can start to speak for real, and through that, the invitation to be heard lets us say bigger Torahs than we really could be capable of thinking, finding, or figuring out.
So much of the Torah that comes down on Shavuos is the surprises that we hear from our own mouths, while talking with a partner-chavrusa. The Torah that we couldn’t be zoche to except for our will to listen to a friend, trust and be trusted, to be real about what’s real, true, and ultimately important.
This is why parshas Bamidbar opens and continues with the names of the Tzaddikim; the noble princes of each tribe, just listed. Why? Because heaven and the voice that brings it to earth depends on listening to alot of different people, and letting each one really be seen and heard for who they are. This is what an Ohev Shalom is really doing, and why what comes from it can’t help but be so special, weird, and real. Chag Sameach!
——Yoseph Leib Needelman-Ruiz