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Standing at Sinai

04/29/2022 02:13:41 PM


Rabbi Ezray

One of our least known holidays is Shavuot. As its timing coincides with summer vacations and graduations, many don’t know of this extraordinary holiday. It is a holiday worth celebrating!

In the Torah it is described as the holiday celebrating the wheat harvest. On this holiday, farmers would make pilgrimage to the Temple to offer the first grains. This original meaning of gratitude for the gifts of God teaches a powerful message recognizing the blessing of bounty and human labor.

After the destruction of the Temple, with the opportunity to bring gifts to the Temple no longer possible, Judaism emerged into a new period. The Rabbis compiled the Mishna and the Talmud as learning and mitzvah infused meaning and to put purpose back into Jewish life. In the process temple-centric holidays such as Shavuot were re-born with new purpose. Shavuot became the holiday when we celebrate the day we received Torah. Receiving Torah is the climax of our redemption from Egypt. No longer slaves, we could create a life of meaning through law, culture, language, story, calendar, and ritual. Freedom fulfilled is the ability to live with meaning and relationship through the laws of Torah.

And here is where Rabbinic imagination and innovation shined.

Each year we re-imagine the moment of standing at Mount Sinai and receiving revelation. And it was not just our ancestors who stood at Sinai, we did as well! In Deuteronomy 29:13-14 we read, “I make this covenant not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day and those who are not with us here this day.” This is us!

And our relationship with Torah is ongoing. Shavuot is called zman mattan Torateinu, "The time of the giving of our Torah." Not the time when it was given, but the time when it is given. Shavuot is a time when we re-enact and reflect on what it means for us to receive Torah. Rabbi Meir Alter of Ger puts it this way, “The receiving of Torah happens at every time and in every generation.”

So the question is: How do you receive Torah? How do you make your way back to Sinai and interpret this moment of revelation? How do you hear and interpret Torah in ways similar and different from your ancestors?

At CBJ we will celebrate the holiday by hearing about how different congregants have received Torah and made it their own. Whether born Jewish or a Jew by choice; practicing as your parents did or in radically different ways, we’ll share stories of what voice of revelation we hear. Listening to our own stories and hearing and internalizing the voices of fellow congregants, we will continue to attune our own souls to receive and internalize our own Torah for this moment.

Let’s go back to Sinai together. Shavuot services will be the evening of Saturday, June 4. We’ll begin at 6:00 pm for a light dinner (Seudat Shlishit) with singing, stories, and study. The evening service will be at 7:00 pm, and at 7:30 pm, we’ll begin our program, Standing at Sinai: Our Jewish Choices, hearing about Jewish choices that congregants have made that have affected their lives. It promises to be a night of revelation and inspiration.

Mon, August 15 2022 18 Av 5782