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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Shavuot, The Holiday of Jewish Unity

I'm not referring to the traditional Shavuot menu, based (at least according to Ashkenazim) on dairy foods, because lactose intolerance aka milk allergies/sensitivity is the latest Jewish genetic trait. 

The more I study Jewish History, Biblical, ancient Jewish History, the more obvious it seems to me that there were always Jews who sinned, or skimped (a popular label for this in Israel nowadays is "dati lite," the diatietc/low calorie religious observance) on their observance of the Torah, G-d's instructions. Most probably the only few seconds in time when all Jews agreed, were united and obeyed were as long as it took to shout out in unison:
נעשה ונשמע.
Na'aseh vinishmah.
We will do and we will listen.
Those crucial, magical, life-changing historic event took place at the foot of Mount Sinai, after the exodus from Egypt when we, the Jewish People, accepted the Torah, G-d's instructions on how to live.
By saying "Na'aseh" before "Nishma" they expressed acceptance of Hashem's Torah "sight unseen" - without first understanding. After the unqualified acceptance of "Na'aseh, saying "Nishma" means that we are ready to open our brain, our intellect and our hearts to understand Hashem's Torah to the extent that Hashem will help us to do so.

If this sight unseen acceptance hadn't happened, Jewish History would have taken a different path.  But it did happen.  Chazal, our sages say that the soul of every single Jew to be born (or converted) was there at that great historic moment.  That was the pledge, the oath that linguists say is the key to the name of this holiday, which should be called Shvu'ot, oaths, not Shavu'ot, weeks.

Our ancestors, accompanied by our souls, pledged our allegiance, obedience to G-d all those thousands of years ago.  We saw, experienced the miracles which G-d produced to facilitate the exodus from Egypt, the end to the bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt.

Today we see, even among many Jews who claim not to obey the Torah that despite this they are attracted to the Torah.  There are "secular yeshivot" in which religious observance isn't required in order to study the classic Jewish texts.  Shavuot is a very traditional time to study Torah, Talmud and commentaries.  More and more we hear:
"The dati'im (Torah observant) don't have a monopoly on our Jewish texts."

I'm glad to hear this.  We're all Jews, and nobody "owns" the Torah.  The Torah must unite us to remain one people.

Chag Sameach
Have a Joyful Holiday


debby said...

Chag Shavous Sameach to you and yours

Batya said...

debby, thanks