The Middle Man by Rabbi Yosef Adler


The conclusion of the Beracha of Kedushat Hayom for the Chagim which require עליה לרגל is מקדש ישראל והזמנים.  The תורה תמימה suggested that the word “והזמנים” is not really part of the text of the Beracha.  It simply means that for each Chag we should insert the proper description for that holiday.  On Pesach we would recite מקדש ישראל וחג המצות, on Shavuot מקדש ישראל וחג השבועות and on Sukkot מקדש ישראל וחג הסוכות.  We have not accepted his suggestion and recite מקדש ישראל והזמנים on all of the festivals.  Rav Soloveitchik זצ"ל even felt that the selection of one common phrase indicates that all three of the Chagim possess one קדושת היום and to the some extent they are all related to one another.

Let us operate on this assumption that all the Chagim are somehow related to one another.  Can we possibly identify which of the three is most significant?  The Gemara (Yuma 37a) states שלשה שהיו מהלכין בדרך הרב באמצע גדול בימינן וקטן משמאלו.  When three people travel together, the Rav walks in the center, his most outstanding student travels to his right and the other accompanies him on his left.  Similarly when the angels visit אברהם, it is מיכאל, the acknowledged greatest angel who travels in the center with גבריאל to his right and רפאל to his left.  In the cycle of Chagim, our festival of שבועות acquires the designation of הרב באמצע, the more significant that occupies center stage, but why?

There are three types of freedom that we highlight.  Pesach granted us potential freedom.  עבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים ויוציאנו ה' אלוקינו משם, “we were slaves unto Pharaoh until הקב"ה delivered us from bondage.” סוכות provides us with economic freedom באספך מגרנך ומיקבך as we experience a successful harvest and are not economically dependent upon any other nation.  The Yom Tov of Shavuot represents spiritual freedom.  The Mishna in Avot states אין לך בן חורין אלא מי שעוסק בתורה.

We define a freed person only as one who has accepted and mastered a Torah way of life.  When one understands the significance of the holiday of Shavuot as it occupies center stage of the Chagim, the other two festivals highlighting economic and political freedom become meaningful as well.  As such, we will chant מקדש ישראל והזמנים and welcome Shavuot, the רב באמצע, the most prominent of the Chagim.

Dairy Food by Michael Goldsmith

Returning Home by Ami Friedman