The following column appear the weekly Shabbat Shalom email-newsletter of Congregation Agudas Achim
HEARING GOD’S VOICE; IT’S NOT JUST FOR FOLKS IN THE BIBLE
If you can conceive of the idea that the simple act of study, learning about anything at all, is actually a form of Divine Revelation, than you can appreciate why for 4,000 years the Jewish people have considered acquiring knowledge the highest priority before saving a life. To learn something new, is to experience the wonder and awe of God’s creation.
On Monday and Tuesday, June 9th and 10th the Jewish world will celebrate one of the three major Pilgrimage Festivals on our calendar, the holiday of Shavuot. Considering what Shavuot commemorates, it’s ironic that it is probably the least observed of the 3 festivals (the others being Sukkot & Passover). Shavuot celebrates that incredible moment when 50 days after having been freed from slavery, our ancestors met with their Liberator at Mount Sinai. And it was there that God revealed the Divine Will to them. The former slaves went from having to answer to taskmasters who ruled over them, to having to answer to a Higher Power that wanted to protect their new found freedom.
Some say God gave the Children of Israel the Ten Commandments (in Hebrew, the 10 Statements); others say the entire Torah, written and oral laws were given in their entirety at Sinai. Regardless of what documents or specific words you believe were communicated in those momentous moments when the earth quaked, thunder roared and God’s voice rang out for all to hear, we can all agree on what God was trying to accomplish. The message was clear and simple regardless of the actual words: you are not alone; there is an order to this universe that you may not be able to readily comprehend; to know Me is to study that which I have created -so never stop learning; live with one another in civilized communities that are governed by laws that protect your freedom to think, learn, worship and love; you did not create this world, I did; remember to treat one another with the same respect and compassion you expect from Me.
Since that fateful-pivotal moment in Jewish history, we have been study God’s words as our ancestors understood them and put them to paper. We have committed ourselves to learning and following God’s instructions. Our collective accumulation of our understanding of God’s will we call, Torah. Personally, I believe that the encounter at Sinai figuratively continues every moment of everyday in every corner of the world where people are growing intellectually. Death is not limited to the cessation of bodily functions, we die spiritually and emotionally when we lose the capacity to continue learning.
Join your community on the evening of Sunday, June 8th at 8 PM when we will gather at Agudas Achim to welcome Shavuot; study some sacred texts together, enjoy a festive meal and hopefully experience the joy and satisfaction of Revelation by learning together as a community.