Thursday, June 5, 2008


Shavuot, the Festival of weeks to be celebrated in a few days, is known as the season of the Giving of the Torah. In the thinking of Jewish tradition, there is no greater gift than the Torah; it is superior to life itself. Without it, life, Jewish life, is an impossibility. It is the soul of the Jewish people.
However, a gift is incomplete, if not non-existent, if there is no one to receive it. The essence of the gift's meaning is that it is both given and received, that there is a give and take relationship surrounding the act of giving. Israel, the receiver is incomplete without a Giver and a gift; God the Giver cannot fulfill His nature as a Giver unless His gift is received. Thus, the special relationship that is established through the event of revelation, a relationship of gratefulness for giving and receiving.
The origin of the word Torah is twofold; "Or"-light, and "Yaroh," to aim, to focus,to pay attention. thus Torah's overarching function is to shed light, to cast clarity over life, to enlighten hearts and minds. In order to have life emerge as clear and wondrously luminescent, it is necessary to pay attention. Only through mindful attentiveness can we arrive at astonishment.
In essence, I see Torah-also related to the word for teacher and parent-"Moreh," Horeh" -
as a curriculum for the cultivation of compassion. The objective of the Master Teacher-God- is, in the words of the daily prayer, to " graciously teach us... to enlighten our eyes to Your Torah, to help our hearts to cleave to Your mitzvot, to unite our thoughts to love and revere You."
There is a well-known song of the religious Zionist youth movement, B'nai Akiva, whose motto is contained in the following words;"Eretz Yisrael b'lee Torah, ze kemo guf b'lee neshamah"- The Land of Israel. ie. the Jewish people, without the Torah, is comparable to a body without a soul.
May we open our eyes and our hearts to the grandeur of this gift and receive its message of compassion lovingly and gratefully.Hag Sameach.

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