Weekly Share

Food For the Soul

Minority Truths

In democracies as well as in Jewish Law, majority rules. A beit din (court of Torah law) must always consist of an odd number of judges, so that there should always be a majority opinion. But the fact is, sometimes the majority gets it wrong. The story in the Parsha Shelach, of the twelve spies sent by Moses to the Promised Land, is a case in point. 

Only two of the dozen, Joshua and Caleb, remained faithful to their leader, to the purpose of their mission and to G-d’s assurance that it was a good land. The other ten spies went awry. The spies were sent on a reconnaissance mission to determine how best to approach the coming conquest of the land of Canaan. Instead of doing what they were sent to do—to suggest the best way forward—ten of the twelve spies brought back a negative report that was designed to intimidate the people and discourage them from entering a ferocious “land that devours its inhabitants,” and which signed off with the categorical conclusion that “we cannot ascend.”

The people responded accordingly. They cried out to Moses, lamenting their very departure from Egypt. So G-d decreed that this generation was not worthy of His precious Promised Land. Furthermore, this day of weeping, on which they cried for no good reason, would become a day of tears for generations. Indeed, our sages explain, this occurred on the Ninth of Av, the day that would become a day of mourning for the destruction of our Holy Temples and many other national calamities throughout history.

Now, the question I’d like to pose here is: why did the people not follow the two good spies, Joshua and Caleb, instead of the others? The obvious answer: they were outvoted and outnumbered. Ten vs. two—no contest. Majority rules.

Tragically, though, they backed the losers. And the result was an extended vacation in the wilderness for them, and a tragedy for all of us to this day. So, although we may be staunch democrats and believers in the democratic process, clearly, there will be times when the minority is right.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Why light at least two candles on Shabbat?

Actually, you can fulfill the mitzvah of Shabbat candle-lighting with even one candle. That said, the custom is to light multiple candles. The basic reason why we light two candles for Shabbat is that they correspond to the two forms of the mitzvah of Shabbat: positive commandments and negative prohibitions associated with sanctifying Shabbat. Our sages tell us that the reason we light the Shabbat candles is to bring peace and tranquility into the home. According to some, this is one of the reasons for two candles—to represent husband and wife. Some explain that the reason for lighting at least two candles is based on the Talmudic teaching that on Shabbat we receive an additional soul, which imbues us with an extra sense of holiness and spirituality throughout the day. The additional candle corresponds to the second soul. While the widespread custom is to light at least two candles for Shabbat, many have the custom to light more.

From an article by Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin


Mind Over Matter

Perfection

Stop seeking perfection and start fixing the world.

You have to begin with the knowledge that there is nothing perfect in this world.

Our job is not to hunt down perfection and live within it.

It is to take whatever broken pieces we have found
and sew them together to create beauty.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Moshiach Thoughts

Refine the Physical World

[The] ultimate perfection of the Messianic era and the time of the Resurrection of the Dead depends on our actions and service of G-d throughout the duration of the galut (exile). The sin of the spies [in the Parsha Shelach] was that they tried to circumvent the process of this refining of the physical world and preparing it for Moshiach.

Mundane entanglements, involvement with worldly matters, may be tiresome, difficult and distasteful for one who aspires to spiritual heights. They are, however, an integral part of the Divine plan, and as Chassidism explains: “The ultimate intent of the descent and exile is to prepare for an immense ascent when, in the days of Moshiach, the light of G-d will radiate in a manifest way!” 

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Mission Possible

A story: Rabbi Hirsh Altein suffered tremendous back pains, and after unsuccessfully trying many medications and treatments all the specialists he visited advised him that surgery was the only way to rid himself of the problem. When the Rebbe was asked for advice, he implied that surgery was unnecessary; there must be a cream on the market which could solve the problem! But the doctors continued to insist that they know of no alternative to surgery. As a last resort, Rabbi Altein visited Dr. Avrohom Seligson (the Rebbe’s personal doctor, and a devoted chassid). Dr. Seligson, who was not a back specialist, checked Rabbi Altein and prescribed an ointment for his back. Sure enough, until his passing more than twenty years later, Rabbi Altein never had a recurrence of his back pains.

When Dr. Seligson was asked how he knew to prescribe the particular cream, when all the specialists thought that surgery was the only option, he responded: “The results of the check-up indicated that he needed surgery—but the Rebbe said that this wasn’t the case. I realized that the Rebbe merely wanted a ‘vessel’ through which a miracle could be manifest, so I prescribed the simplest and cheapest cream available on the market!”

The spies’ reconnaissance mission to Canaan was intended to gather intelligence information about the enemy. They were told to scout the lay of the land, as well as its natural and man-made fortifications. They were to report on the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, and the natural resources they could rely on during times of battle. This information would be used by the Israelite military brass to formulate an appropriate combat strategy for the impending battle to conquer the Holy Land.

The spies – all of whom were upright and pious people with unquestionable integrity – faithfully went about their task, but what they saw made their stomachs churn: the Canaanites were a powerful nation, gargantuan people with awesome strength. No fewer than 31 kings had royal palaces defended by military contingents on the Canaan mainland. There was no way, the spies concluded, for the Israelites to achieve a natural victory against the formidable Canaanite foe. “We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we,” they declared! Yet this honest conclusion had disastrous results. G-d was highly displeased with their report and the reaction it engendered, and it caused the premature demise of the entire generation which left Egypt.

Where did the spies go wrong? The Rebbe explains that the spies erred in assuming that they had to reach a conclusion. They were told to go to Canaan and bring back dry facts: the nature of the land and its population etc. They were not asked to render a decision regarding the feasibility of conquering the land. G-d had promised the Jews a military victory against the Canaanites, and therefore that was not a debatable issue. The question wasn’t if it could be done, but rather how it would be done.

The same is true with our personal lives. We all are “sent on a mission” to this world, to illuminate our surroundings with the radiance of Torah and mitzvot. Often the opposition seems to be too formidable; the obstacles to implementing G-d’s appear to be insurmountable. When these thoughts enter our minds we must remember that if G-d charged us with the mission it certainly can be carried out. Our job is only to figure out how to do it.

From an article by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

Food For the Soul

Timeless Torah

The Parshah  Behaalotecha tells us, “The Ark of the Covenant of G-d journeyed before them” (Numbers 10:33). Rashi interprets this to mean that the Ark—which housed the Tablets inscribed with the Ten commandments—would miraculously prepare the groundwork for their future encampments. What this is also telling us is that the Torah (as embodied by the Tablets) is way ahead of the game. It goes before us. It is not only timeless; it is ahead of its time.

I can think of so many values and lifestyles which have become trendy now, which Torah has been encouraging for centuries.

A Time magazine cover story focused on young moms putting successful careers on hold in order to stay home and nurture their children when they need them most. From the beginning, Torah exempted women from timebound mitzvahs like tefillin or thrice-daily prayers, so that they could fulfill the more important mitzvah of raising the next generation. 

The Jewish tradition of sitting shiva when one loses a family member is today recognized by psychologists of all faiths and cultures as being excellent bereavement therapy. When Jacob cooked lentils for his father, Isaac, it was because Isaac was a mourner sitting shiva for Abraham.

Whereas a generation ago women spurned mikvah as demeaning, today’s woman is embracing it as a supreme acknowledgment of her sexuality and as the most beautiful spiritual experience available. But there were mikvahs in Masada, in Jerusalem during the Temple era, and long before. And the phenomenon of a society in search of spirituality, with celebrities and pop icons studying the Kabbalah, serves only to validate the teachings of Jewish mysticism, which are indeed of ancient days.

Paisley ties were once compulsory, but today are verboten. Fads and fashions come and go, but G-dly values, the morals of menschlichkeit and the mitzvahs of Torah, are not behind the times. If anything, they are ahead of the times.

As He is beyond time, so are His commandments. If they appear to our mortal eyes as anachronistic, then that is our challenge: to relate Torah to our own realities, and to shape our lives according to its standard. He intended it for us and our world, so obviously it can be done.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat and the Divine Mind

In six days, G-d created heaven and earth, and on the seventh day, He rested. But when G-d rests, how is there a heaven and earth? What force sustains the molecules in their places, the electrons in their shells? In what way does any form or matter exist at all?

Rather, for six days, G-d sustains the creation of heaven and earth by His word, and on the seventh day, it rests within His thought. For six days, as you speak words to others outside of yourself, so the Creator generates a universe in which each creature senses itself to be outside of Him. But on Shabbat, if you will only stop to listen, to perceive and to know, you will discover a universe as it is found within the mind of its Creator.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Mind Over Matter

Inspiring Others

It’s not easy to reach out to others. We often feel shy or awkward, worried about interfering, and unconvinced of our ability to be of any use. Far easier to hide in one’s own little huddle and let the world take care of itself.

We can’t, we mustn’t. The exponential effects of inspiring others, the good engendered and inspiration effected have such powerful consequences, that to abnegate our responsibilities would be to condemn both ourselves and others to a sterile, frosty existence.

From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum


Moshiach Thoughts

“Six hundred thousand footmen are the people, bekirbo (in whose midst) I am…” (Beha’alotecha 11:21)

This verse intimates the mystical principle that there is a spark or part of Moses in every one of his people: taking the word bekirbo literally, the verse reads “in whose innards I am.” Thus Moses was connected with every Jew, and this enabled him to be the “faithful shepherd” of Israel and its redeemer from Egypt. The same applies to Moshiach. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov teaches that within every Jew there is a spark of the soul of Moshiach. This spark constitutes the very core of everyone’s soul which each one is to unveil and release to govern his life. Each one will thus redeem himself, and this will bring about the national redemption for all of Israel. Moshiach is connected with the entire nation of Israel, with every single Jew, and that is why he is able to redeem all the Jewish people. 

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Miriam’s Message to the Powerless

A teenager was complaining because her school had punished her for a misdemeanor, while her partner in crime had escaped even a reprimand. “Since her father is on the school board, they won’t punish her! How can I respect such an unfair system when the principal has no real principles!”


At the conclusion of the shacharit (morning) prayers, we recite the Six Remembrances. These are six occurrences that happened at the birth of our nationhood. According to many authorities, we are obligated to remember them every day.

G-d commands us to remember our Exodus, the revelation at Sinai and sanctifying the Shabbat day because they are integral to who we are and our destiny as G-d’s  people. Remembering Amalek’s G-dless attack and our obligation to obliterate them also provides the necessary reminder of the danger of evil and how we must be on guard to eradicate it.

Even remembering our rebelliousness soon after receiving the Torah reminds us of the many times our nation erred and strayed, and to be careful not to repeat this pattern.

However, one of the remembrances has always struck me as odd: “Remember what G-d did to Miriam on the way when you went out of Egypt.”

Miriam loved her younger brother, Moses, and when she heard that he had separated from his wife (not realizing that G-d had instructed him to do so), she spoke to her brother Aaron about it. G-d punished her with leprosy. This daily remembrance reminds us not to speak ill of others or jump to conclusions about their behavior, even if we have positive intentions. The temptation is so great that we need to be reminded daily!

Nevertheless, there are other instances of evil talk, some of which caused far greater harm than Miriam. Moreover, the wording is curious in that it doesn’t remind us of what Miriam did, but rather “to remember what G-d did to her . . . ”

Miriam saved Moses as a baby; she was a prophet, a holy woman and a righteous leader who taught and guided. She also had “powerful connections” as the sister of Moses. One would imagine that G-d would overlook a minor misjudgment by a person of such stature! Nevertheless, G-d didn’t and commands us to remember this daily, so that we internalize that in G-d’s book—because of her greatness—she needed to be an even better example.

We live in an imperfect world where it is easy to become cynical about justice, even among those meant to be our mentors or leaders. So often if feels like it’s not what you know, but who you know; it’s not about your personal integrity or effort, but your power or cunning.

And so, G-d reminds us daily that ultimately, there is true justice. In G-d’s system, you are seen for what you are, for what you accomplish and for what you aspire to be. And that’s something worth remembering daily!

Chana Weisberg 

Food For the Soul

Journey Towards Peace

How do we get to a place where there is no conflict between our spiritual goals and our physical needs? In the portion of Naso, the Torah teaches us how to move from spiritual folly to inner peace. It does so by describing three laws: 1) the “wayward woman”; 2) the nazirite; 3) the priestly blessing, which concludes with the blessing for peace. First the Torah describes the law of the “wayward woman.” The Hebrew word for “wayward” (sotah) is related to the word for “foolishness” (shtut). The Talmud states, “A person does not commit a transgression unless the spirit of folly enters him.” Thus, the sotah personifies the person who acts against his or her better judgment as a result of great temptation. To discover how to overcome the state of the sotah, we look to the next portion, the portion of the nazrite, which when understood correctly is the secret to achieving the inner spiritual harmony described in the priestly blessing.

The nazirite—the man or woman who takes a vow to temporarily refrain from drinking wine, cutting hair and becoming ritually impure—is referred to as “holy.” Yet, paradoxically, the Torah teaches that at the conclusion of the nazrite period he or she must offer a sin offering. This implies that although the choice to become a nazirite was the right choice for that person at that specific time, and thus a holy choice, the nazirite way of life is not the preferred one.

In Torah’s ideal model of holiness, the human being engages with the physical world and imbues it with spirituality, creating peace between body and soul. But occasionally, in order to achieve this ideal state of holiness, a person may have to take the path of the nazirite. If one wants to ensure that he is in control, that the wine, chocolate cake or smartphone will indeed enhance his spiritual life, then sometimes he first has to disengage. He has to demonstrate that he can survive for a period of time without dependence on the specific material possession. After refraining from drinking wine for 30 days, the nazirite can return to the consumption of wine while still maintaining his holiness. Through undergoing the process of the nazirite, one can be holy while engaged in the world. He can use his possessions as tools to attain his spiritual goals, not detract from them.

The Torah provides the roadmap to journey from sotah to nazirite to the priestly blessing—from folly to control to peace and harmony. 

From an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman


Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Recharge

From Shabbat, all days are blessed. Because Shabbat has nothing of its own. Your food on Shabbat is only that which you prepared before Shabbat. Your light on Shabbat is only that which you lit before Shabbat. To the Shabbat Queen you must come prepared. Because on Shabbat the soul of this world, the Shechinah, must rise back to her origin, to revisit her womb. All the world rises with her, as all who feel her presence know. And from that mysterious place she is infused with life, with blessing, with love to carry back to her world. So that all the forthcoming days receive their life from the day of Shabbat. 

And the day of Shabbat receives all she needs for that journey from the days of the week.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Mind Over Matter

Hearing The Voice

Much as we might wish it, we cannot be allowed to hear G-d’s voice everywhere and at all times. If we could, we would be deprived of our freedom of choice. A world in which G-d’s voice is constantly heard does not challenge its population. It was G-d’s desire to create a world of Divine silence, in which, through our efforts, we can uncover G-d’s concealed voice. It is our task to take what we heard during that short period at Mount Sinai and within that small space of the Tabernacle – and each of us has heard G-d’s voice somewhere and at some time, however fleetingly – and transmit it to the rest of time and space.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe


Moshiach Thoughts

Catalyst

Right now you are sitting on the tipping point of all that ever was. The size of the deed is not what matters. It is only a catalyst. One small deed could be enough to ignite a process to change the entire world. One small opening is all that’s needed, and the rest will heal itself. Whatever you do, do it with the conviction that this is the one last fine adjustment, the tipping point for the entire world.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Have I Got A Story

Does Every Day Matter?

How was your day? Fine, how was yours? Fine. How many times have you had this conversation? In how many homes across the world is this very exchange happening right now? Thousands, I would suppose. And it makes sense. After all, how earth-shattering can each day be? Many would consider it fortunate when a day passes by without drama; a regular, boring day, indistinguishable from yesterday, when you can come home and tell your spouse/parent/roommate, “It was fine.” Is that so bad? Yes. We could, and should, do better.

Our parshah of Naso continues with the theme of this entire book, “Numbers,” listing the tallies of Levite families. Unlike the rest of the Jewish people, who were counted from ages 20 to 50, the Levites were counted from ages 30 to 50. Why? Because that was the age window to serve in the Temple—a role reserved for the Levites…. from the age of thirty years and upward until the age of fifty years, who are fit to perform the service for the service and the work of carrying, in the Tent of Meeting. 

Pointing out the puzzling repetitious words, “the service for the service,” Rashi explains: This refers to the music with cymbals and harps, which is a service for another service [namely, the sacrifices]. In the Temple, the staff members with the biggest job descriptions were the kohanim, the priests, who performed the bulk of the work. The Levites had few jobs, and arguably their flagship position was that of musicians. The Mishnah describes a beautiful scene of tens of Levites standing on the steps of the Temple in a grand symphony, serenading G-d on a plethora of instruments as the sacrifices were offered. The musical experience was quite systemized; the Levites would sing a different song every day of the week. All in all, it was a moving experience, meant to evoke awe in the hearts of those serving G-d in that holy place.

While the Temple is sadly no longer in service, the Levite tradition of daily song is not lost. Every day, shortly after the morning Amidah prayer, we recited the Shir Shel Yom, the “Song of the Day,” namely the chapter of Psalms that the Levites sang in the Temple in bygone days. In fact, prior to reciting the daily chapter, we say, “Today is the first day of the week, on which the Levites would chant in the Temple…”

Why am I telling you this?  Well, during a talk in the summer of 1973, the Rebbe delivered a powerful message about this little-talked-about tradition. It was relevant then, and it’s just as relevant today. As mentioned, this portion of the morning prayers is called the Song of the Day. Now, conventionally, when you read that, it means, “The chapter of Psalms that was sung in the Temple on this day of the week.” But if you didn’t have all the background info we’ve just discussed, you would be forgiven for understanding the words exactly as they read: “Today’s song,” i.e., the song that today—insert day of the week here—sings.

What does that mean? What does it mean that Sunday sings? And what is Sunday’s song vs. Tuesday’s song? Ah.

This is where we go back to that boring conversation we opened with. While many will argue that Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday really aren’t different from one another, and hey, the less drama the better, nothing can be further from the truth.

After all, if G-d created Sunday, and then Monday, and then Tuesday, they must be different from one another. If they were really the same, if every boring day was just a meaningless continuation of yesterday’s randomness, different only by dint of the date on the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, then G-d essentially wasted His time creating them each separately.

The sun sets at night and rises the next morning, gifting us with a new day, a new opportunity. If G-d ordained it as such, it must be that there’s something inherently unique about today that wasn’t available yesterday and won’t be available tomorrow.

Every day has its own unique “song.” Wednesday is jazz, Thursday is classical, and Friday is a mix. You wake up to a new day, and now it’s your turn to discover its rhythm, its beat, and its tune.

What this means in plain, simple English is this: Every day is consequential. Don’t be lazy with yourself and let a day pass by, thinking, “Eh, it’s just another day. Let me put it to bed and hope for something more interesting tomorrow…This is a sad mistake. Each day is belting out a different tune, and if you perk up your ears enough, you’ll hear it. Go ahead and make every day meaningful and consequential. You may not build the Empire State Building anew every day, but you can most definitely build something of value today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.
Rabbi Aharon Loschak 

Food For the Soul

Every Jew Counts

This week in the Torah reading of Bamidbar, we read of the census taken of the Jewish people. This portion is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, the “season of the giving of the Torah.” One important and obvious connection is that in the Torah, too, every letter counts. One missing letter invalidates the entire scroll. Likewise, one missing Jew leaves Jewish peoplehood lacking, incomplete. 

Today, we are losing a lot of Jews to ignorance. But sometimes we also lose them because we didn’t embrace them as we could have. At a time when they were receptive, we didn’t make them feel welcome. Other faiths, ideologies and cults are using “love bombs” to entice Jews to their way of life. Very often they prey on the weak and vulnerable among us. Anyone desperately seeking warmth, love and a sense of belonging will be an easy target for such groups. But there are lots of ordinary, stable people who crave these things too. Don’t we all? If the Jewish community doesn’t provide that warm welcome, we may very well find them going elsewhere.

Some years ago, we had a visiting Rabbi from Canada speaking in our shul. His talk was about the very real threat of “Jews for J.” and so-called “Hebrew-Christians” who preyed on unsuspecting Jews by using Jewish symbols and even so-called “shuls,” or Messianic Synagogues, which are really nothing more than churches in disguise. He described how these individuals make every deceitful effort to confuse ignorant Jews into believing they are going to a Jewish house of worship.

We need to embrace everyone who walks in through our doors. And we need to do more than just wait for people to come to shul and make them feel welcome. We need to go out and find our people wherever they may be. Most certainly, when someone shows a spark of interest — a soul seeking its source — we need to be there; as an organized community, and as individuals. So next time you notice someone sitting at the back of the shul looking lost, or even just a new face in the crowd, try and spare a smile. You may save a soul. Every Jew really does count. Let’s count them in.

Edited from an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Shavuot

Shavuot 2022 (a two-day holiday, celebrated from sunset on June 4, 2022 until nightfall on June 6, 2022) coincides with the date that G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai more than 3,000 years ago. It comes after 49 days of eager counting, as we prepared ourselves for this special day. It is celebrated by lighting candles, staying up all night to learn Torah, hearing the reading of the Ten Commandments in synagogue, feasting on dairy foods and more. 

For information about Shavuot visit Chabad.org


Mind Over Matter

Standing Out or Fitting In?

We all need some way to express our individuality, yet too much individuality can often lead to a lack of identity. We all need to feel a sense of belonging to something greater—a people, a community, a way of life. Only when we feel a secure sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves can we really have the freedom to discover our individuality. But this larger entity must also provide the framework for each of us to strive to become our unique personal best.

Edited from an article by Chana Weisberg


Moshiach Thoughts

Peace and Unity

The peace and unity which were the preparation and precondition for the Giving of the Torah are also the preparation for the Messianic redemption. The present galut was caused by sinat chinam, gratuitous hatred. Thus we must nullify that cause by ahavat chinam, gratuitous love. There must be gratuitous (unqualified) love for every Jew-even to one who has never done you a favor, even to one you have never met or seen, and even to one who is chinam, devoid of any quality that would warrant feelings of love. This love, this sense of peace and unity, is the channel for all Divine blessings, including the greatest of all: G-d speedily sending us Moshiach to redeem us, thus fulfilling: “In this place (the Land of Israel) which is now desolate… the sheep (the people of Israel) will pass before the one who will count them (Moshiach), says G-d!” (Jeremiah 33:12-13).

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

A Love Letter from G-d

Recently a friend asked me if I would meet with his son, Sam, and help him prepare his Bar Mitzvah speech. I generally don’t teach thirteen-year-olds, but for a friend I made an exception. Well, after about an hour of deep talk, I said, “Sammy, do you have any questions?” He said, “Yeah, just one. Why do I have to obey all these commandments, keep all these rules?” Well, I felt pretty silly. Here I was going off the deep end when he doesn’t even know what his Bar Mitzvah meant.

I asked him, “Sammy, do you like football?”

“I love it! I play it all the time.”

“Do you know the rules?” I continued. “Of course, you can’t play if you don’t know the rules.”

“Why not?”

“’Cuz then there would be no game. You couldn’t win or lose. There couldn’t be touch downs, no out of bounds, no violations, no penalties. Without the rules it would just be chaos and no fun.”

“Precisely, and that’s true about the game of life also. Without rules and regulations it would be chaos, no fun, no adventure, no challenge. You couldn’t win or lose. And even though we all know, ‘it’s not whether you win or lose but it’s how you play the game,’ without rules there is no way to evaluate ‘how you play the game.’ The Torah’s commandments are the game rules of life and G-d is the referee.” In the end, Sammy got psyched for his Bar Mitzvah.

On Shavuot we celebrate getting the game rules of life because if there are no game rules, there is no game. And on that day we rejoice because we became players in the game of life. Because if there is no right and wrong, then what difference does it make what I do? If there is nothing to violate, there is nothing to fulfill. I can’t even play a game of basketball without rules, let alone live my life! Without the Torah’s game rules for living, the world is just one big chaos and our choices are meaningless.

The Torah, however, is more than the rules of life. Torah is a living encounter with G-d. The revelation of G-d at Mt. Sinai wasn’t simply an opportunity for the Jewish people to receive G-d’s laws but experience G-d’s love. What happened at Mt. Sinai was a personal, face-to-face encounter with G-d. It wasn’t just about getting the laws that made the day important, it was about feeling the ecstasy of G-d’s intimacy with the Jewish people.

The experience at Mt. Sinai was not only a revelation of G-d’s truth, but more importantly, it was a revelation of G-d’s love. 

Torah was and continues to be G-d’s love letter. It is the greatest gift ever because it embodies G-d’s presence. When you learn the Torah you can actually feel G-d’s closeness to you. The Talmud teaches that when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people He said, “I am giving you My soul in writing.”

Imagine one day you receive a love letter. If you’re anything like me, you’ll read the letter over and over again, because you know there’s much more to this letter. The first time you read it you get the simple meaning. But then you read it even more carefully. You notice that she tells you about the weather and then she starts talking about her mother. What’s the connection, you wonder. You then read the letter again and now you see that there are hints in this letter. You pay attention not only to what she says, but also to the way she’s structured her sentences. Then you go over it again because you realize that it’s even deeper than that. You look at how she even forms the very letters. There are secrets in the nuances of the actual shape of her letters. You then start looking for the deeper subtle meanings.

This, in essence, is learning Torah. Through our involvement with the text, we hear G-d’s voice, feel the Divine presence and experience G-d’s love and relive the revelation at Sinai each day of our lives. Therefore, the Torah embodies not only a way of life but also a way to love. The wisdom and commandments of the Torah empower us to love each other and love G-d. Shavuot is a day to celebrate the laws in love and the love in law.

From an article by Rabbi David Aaron

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