May 15th, 2018
The festival of Shavuot, which begins this weekend, commemorates the spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai seven weeks after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. It is when God and the people of Israel entered into a metaphorical marriage, or covenant. It is what we have been counting toward since Passover by ‘counting the omer’.
In Biblical times, Shavuot was a pilgrimage festival, and Israelites brought crops to the Temple in Jerusalem as offerings. In modern times, the focus is on the Torah and Jewish learning. With the festival of Shavuot approaching, I would like to share a quote that imagines the Torah as a letter written to our children:
“The Torah was written by your great-great-grandfather/mother. It is not a book or five books (or six). The Torah is a letter written by someone in your family a long time ago who did not know you by name, but knew you would come along. It was written by someone who loved you and wanted you to be from somewhere; to have some idea of what it is all about; to have some semblance of Faith and Optimism and Struggle and Meaning. The Torah is an inheritance, not a book. When you read Torah, you don’t read it like Tom Sawyer or Archie comics. You read Torah like a fragile, handwritten letter addressed to you (using your Hebrew name on the envelope), which you found in your grandparents’ attic. You read it, not with your eyes, but with your heart. It’s a family treasure that God and Moses and one hundred generations of your family made sure you got.”
Rabbi Eric Bram, z”l