Shavuot and the better world
Shavuot celebrates that transcendent moment when we received the Torah, investing us with our ultimate meaning as a People. In a moving image unfolded in the Written Torah, and enlarged in the Oral Torah, God himself delivered His Word to the Children of Israel, in terms understandable to all humankind. He, the Perfect Infinity, - in an act of true love - gives us a Code that forever removes the existential questions of "what is good" and "what is bad," establishing the fundamental of Western Ethics.
Jewish mystical literature, based on the written Torah, emphasizes that the souls of all Jews in all ages received the Torah, meaning: the act of divine transmission is perennial in the eternal chain of Jewish Generations. Not only the 600,000 heads of households (around 3,000,000 people) who left Egypt, but all members of the Jewish people, in all times, heard the "Anochi A' Elo-hecha..." - "I am A' your God...", the 10 Commandments, the expression of Ultimate Morality. In some part of our being, we all carry the emotion of Ma'amad Har Sinai, of being in the presence of the Divinity at Mount Sinai. The message of the Written and Oral Torah, and its further development, is that the Torah is the heritage of our People, given to all equally and with equal opportunities, challenges and commitments.
This view of the Torah as a code for all people, in turn, transcends even the act of its delivery; it is intrinsic to its essence. The Torah was given to the People because it is intended for all our people. Our Sages employed beautiful imagery:
"Rabah bar Bar Chanah said: Why were the words of the Torah compared with fire?
[Yirmiahu the Prophet says:] 'Is not my word like fire?'
This is to show that just as fire does not burn alone, the words of the Torah are not sustainable in solitude."
Rabah bar Bar Chanah indicates a central aspect of the essence of the Torah and the act of its transmission: unlike other knowledge, which does not require concrete application in everyday life, Torah is applicable, knowledge applied to interdependency between every person and other people, both the sculptor and artist of crafting good human sensibilities and relations between people.
If it is not so, if it has no specific application in our daily lives, Torah becomes irrelevant, vanishes. Torah is a guide to personal and social action, comes alive in our lives when we translate it into our gestures and words, in our physical actions, in our association with others. Torah cannot exist in the loneliness of a Robinson Crusoe, disconnected and alienated from others. God gave us Torah in order to build through its lessons, just, generous, supportive and empathic human societies, sensitive to the suffering of others and willing to heal them.
God gave His Word to all and for all, expecting us to always build the better world to which we must aspire, and for which we must strive, affirming our partnership with Him in the task of improving what we can.
May God inspire us to receive the Torah in our lives today, to again experience the excitement we felt in our souls more than 3300 years ago
when it was delivered to us at Ma'amad Har Sinai.
May we incorporate Torah as a guide for our actions and our behavior and our deepest beliefs, to make a better out of this world,
in brotherly love, based on true listening and genuine dialogue.
Chag Shavuot Sameach!
RABBI CARLOS A. TAPIERO
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union
"...On the third day the Lord will descend Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people" - Shemot (Exodus) XIX, 11.
Midrash Exodus Rabbah 28:6. The Midrash cites Deuteronomy 29:13:
"...and with whoever is not here today" and explains that this phrase refers to the souls of all future generations, all present at Mount Sinai, including the souls of all our Prophets and Sages. In regard to all the souls of future generations who were present at Mount Sinai, the Midrash states: "Each one received his portion".
Zohar."All Israel, including those yet to be born in future generations to the end of the time, were present at that revelation and faithfully agreed to abide to it". Arthur Green, "A guide to the Zohar", Stanford University Press, 2004, page 125.
Yirmiahu (Jeremiah) XXIII, 29.
One stick is not enough to make fire; you need at least two.
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Taanit 7a.