Torah and Tidbits: Shavuot

Shavuot begins on Saturday night. It is customary to spend that night in study in anticipation of the reenactment in the morning of the revelation at Mount Sinai. Although the Bible account is of God addressing the people with the Ten Commandments, the rabbis expanded the holiday to encompass the giving of the entire Torah. A preschooler this morning asked me, “Why do we read Torah?” I shared the question with his peers and their answers were: “It makes us closer to God;” “It is for the Jews;” “Just because.” All three together summarize our attachment to Torah, so precious that we rise when it is taken from the ark and kiss it when it passes in a processional. On Shavuot we celebrate the Torah as a love letter from God: our peoples’ expression of God’s love; what has held us together despite dispersion; and as a directive to observe in order to fulfill our collective promise to live as a holy people. Each week as I prepare my Torah teachings, I am reminded of the precision of the Torah’s words and the opportunity to take those words from across time, written on parchment and our people’s history, and make them our own.

Shabbat table reflection: What is your favorite teaching of Torah and why? What is the challenge in living a life guided by Torah? Why does Torah need interpretation?


Shavuot- Saturday night: 8pm prayers; 8:30-midnight for study. On Monday, I shared lemonade with Professor Michael Dennin, a UCI professor of physics and a devout Catholic. He has written a book on his faith and how it meshes with science, which just won a prize as best book on Science and Religion. Much hinges for him on personal experience with God and the capacity of free will, which cannot be explained scientifically and points to a quality of consciousness that is non-materialistic. His understanding of faith and the Bible is quite close to my own. Our public conversation will take forty-five minutes, followed by a presentation by Fred and Joel Reiss (a father and son with years of leadership experience) and then an array of 18 minute Ted Talks by Ahuva Ho, Alan Cortez, Howard Mirowitz, and myself. For a full list of the topics click here. And of course, we will have a break to enjoy the dairy treat of cheesecake and more.

China in autumn with Rabbi Marvin Tokayer. I share with you some Q&A with Arie Katz, describing the tour planned this October. The price is on the high side due to a decision by our guide to make sure that his participants are physically comfortable. I have been to China and yet, know that it is worth returning with Rabbi Tokayer. He is that extraordinary. He has led tours to China for decades and is deeply learned, well connected, a master story-teller, and mench. To travel on this CSP-CBI trip is to return with lifetime memories. Please contact me for more information.