Torah: 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?