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eJudaism: 48 & 49 - Torah, Shavuot (Part 8)

06/03/2022 09:30:18 AM


Michael Greenfield

On the day of his death, Moses wrote 13 scrolls of Torah - one for each of the 12 Tribes and one to put in the ark - so that no one could secretly alter even one word. The sun, out of deference to Moses, refused to set that day while he still sat writing. And 2000 years before the Creation, we're told, the Torah was written with black fire on white fire, and then the world was created so that we could receive Torah, which is why Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Aaron all studied Torah throughout their lives. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah surely studied it, too, even if the Midrash neglected to mention that fact. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, God revealed God's Self to the People of Israel and they chose Torah and made a covenant to follow it before they'd even read it. And this Sunday, on Shavuot, after 49 days of waiting, we, too, will finally receive the Torah just as we do each year on Shavuot.

Ein Mookdam U'Me'uchar B'Torah, there is neither early nor late in the Torah, according to the Sages. What they mean is that there is no chronology in Torah, which is ironic this week considering mitzvah #306: And you shall count the 49 days of the Omer. Today is the forty-eighth day of the Omer, which is six weeks and six days of the Omer. Tomorrow is 49, seven weeks. And on the 50th day, Shavuot.

At 13, our students chant from the scrolls of Torah and then share their understanding of what they've read. At the end of 10th grade, at Confirmation, somehow vastly more mature in just three years, it's somewhat the opposite. Our students share their understanding of Judaism, they confirm in the presence of our K'hilah K'doshah - our holy community - that their own Jewish journey has led them to embrace this ancient tradition, and they become the scrolls upon which the future of the Jewish people is written. They become Torah, rooted in our storied past, branching out in ways we cannot anticipate. What is Torah? Etz Chaim He - it is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to it.

What Torah is, Hillel taught us, is 613 commandments spoken all at once while easily balancing on just one foot: What is hateful to you, do not do to others; all the rest is commentary, now go and learn. So where do we start learning? There is a teaching that each of us has our own Torah, our own truth, so what better place to start than with yourself. What does your Torah say about Judaism? Go and learn. What can you read from the Torah of those closest to you? Go and learn. And what have you written on the Torah of those who are learning from you?

But imagine that someone has no time to study Torah. In such a case, when is one supposed to go and learn? The answer is, there is no such person. Ein Mookdam U'Me'uchar B'Torah. You have always been reading Torah. You have always been writing Torah. You are always Torah, but perhaps you didn't realize it. Shavuot invites all of us to set our Torah side by side with the ones that Moses wrote for us all those years ago and find the places where the words match up and spark Judaism inside of us. Shavuot is Confirmation for us all.

Sun, May 26 2024 18 Iyyar 5784