May 10, 2013
Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, May 10, 2013.
This Shabbat, we’re nearing the end of the countdown to Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. Tonight, Erev Shabbat (Sabbath Eve) is 6 weeks, plus 3 days of the Omer . . . day 46 in the counting of the days between Passover and Shavuot, Shavuot Eve being the 50th day. In the Jewish Tradition, we advance in awe as we move to the moment in which tradition tells us that the Torah was revealed by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
… as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar; and all the people who were in the camp trembled.
Such is the account in the Torah. [Exodus 19] 600,000 Israelites, according the Biblical account, witnessed the revelation at Sinai. It is the watershed of Jewish History. After Sinai, the religion was profoundly changed to a religion based in law with 613 commandments – 248 “Thou Shalt” commandments, and 365 “Thou Shalt Not” commandments. The Sinai story as told in the Bible is the exact center of the Jewish religion. It is so central, the rabbis 2000 years ago insisted that it wasn’t merely a historical event affecting those 600,000 Jews, but rather ALL OF US, throughout all the millennia of Jewish life, were at Sinai. All of us voluntarily were committed to those commandments. Certainly, in every generation, we reevaluate those commitments. What really happened? Are we still bound to those commandments, even if we have different interpretations or understandings of them? That’s why the early reform congregations in 19th Century Germany added “Confirmation” to the Jewish synagogue rituals on Shavuot – it is the time when our youth affirm their commitment to the Torah. Shavuot is a time of reaffirming our connection to Judaism and to the Universal Values illuminated in the Torah. The prophet Micah epitomized that reaffirmation:
It has been told you, O man, what is good,
And what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do justice
And to love goodness,
And to walk humbly with your God.