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Shavuot 5780 Dvar Torah from Rabbi Saul I. Grife

"Kabbalat Torah: A Time for Everyone to Receive the Torah!"

Chag Shavuot Sameach everyone! I wish you all a joyous Shavuot holiday!

Shavuot is known as "Zman Matan Torateinu: The Season of the Giving of the Torah". On Shavuot we celebrate the Revelation at Mt. Sinai with the reading of the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments.

People ask, "Why isn't Shavuot called 'Zman Kabbalat HaTorah: The Season for the Receiving of the Torah?' After all, isn't that what we are truly celebrating; receiving and incorporating the Torah into our lives?"

A story.

Once upon a time a traveler was on a long journey. He made his way through forests and rivers and suddenly arrived at a steep mountain. Seeing no way to circumvent the peak, he suddenly noticed an old woman sitting at the foot of the elevation.

"Dear lady", he began, "Are you from around these parts?" he queried.

"Why kind stranger", she responded, "I have lived here at the foot of this mountain most of my life".

"Excellent", countered the traveler, "Then you are in the perfect position to answer the following question. Please tell me, how long will it take me to climb and then descend this mountain before me?"

The woman did not respond.

Again, the man asked how long it would take to travel over the mountain. Again, the woman did not respond. Frustrated, the sojourner approached the peak and started to climb.

After 30 seconds, the traveler heard the woman shout out at him from below, "45 minutes!"

Frustrated again, the traveler quickly descended and demonstrated his annoyance.

"When I asked you to help me, you remained silent. When I asked you to tell me how long it would take me to climb you didn't answer. Why did you delay in helping me?"

"Kind sir", replied the woman, "I have watched countless people come and go over this mountain for years. But until I saw how quickly you climbed, how could I tell how long it would take you to traverse the mountain. It took me about 30 seconds to see how fast you moved. Now, based on your ability to climb, I approximate it will take you about 45 minutes to cover the mountain. Best of luck on your travels!"

My friends, this parable comes to teach us all a lesson.

According to Jewish tradition, Moshe and the Israelites received the Torah on Mt. Sinai around 1250 BCE. Our tradition teaches that God's Revelation was a one-time event. Nothing since Mt. Sinai should be seen to challenge or contradict the fundamentals of the Torah. If it does, it is seen as heresy.

However, although all of Israel was given the Torah at one time, the way and the timing of how we receive it varies from person to person.

Some of us are given Torah early in life and we are receptive to its teachings. The Torah is with us for years. We learn from an early age and then build on that knowledge over the years.

Some of us do not encounter Judaism until later in life. We approach it differently as an adult than as a child. We connect with it in our individual way and connect with Judaism in our own time and fashion.

Sometimes we are open to all that the Torah has to teach. Sometimes we welcome and understand its wisdom and lessons.

At other times we are not so receptive to what Judaism has to offer. Consider the story of the 4 children of the Haggadah. The wise child is eager to learn all s/he can. The rebellious one couldn't care less.

Therefore, the import of the description of the epithet of Shavuot as the season of the "giving of the Torah" acknowledges that while the Torah was given once, we all receive it in different ways, at different times over the span of a lifetime.

It is wonderful to learn and to know much. There are scholars who possess an incredible command of Torah, Talmud and Judaism. They are fountains of wisdom, able to recite, cross-reference and teach so much!

The primary mitzvah, however, of Torah is to study it and be occupied with it. Therefore, whether one feels well-versed in the Torah or not is secondary to the mitzvah of trying to learn and trying to practice whenever possible. Therefore, however much we receive the Torah is a mitzvah and a blessing to each one of us. We all receive it in our own way and in our own time!

Therefore, on this Shavuot 5780, when Klal Yisrael celebrates the Giving of the Torah to all of Israel, let us strive to welcome as much of Judaism, Torah and mitzvot in our lives as possible. Growing Jewishly is not an emergency and can't be done all at once despite what Rabbi Hillel taught while standing on one leg. A great way of becoming Jewish is step by step, day by day, year by year. I hope you will celebrate the Judaism you embrace now and always seek to add to it as time goes by. Like our traveler from the story, it is up to each one of us how quickly we travel and how long it will take us to get to where we aim to go in our journey of Torah and becoming Jews and people of worth. I hope we will all celebrate the precious place of Torah in our lives this Shavuot and continue to seek to grow as Jews for the rest of our livesbi'simcha, with great joy!

Wishing us all a Zman Simchatenu, a very safe, healthy and joyous Shavuot to all!


PS - You are cordially invited to join us this Sunday morning May 31 on Zoom to celebrate this year's BTBJ Confirmation class. They number 6 students strong and are ready to celebrate the wonderful Jews and people they have become with us all!

Fri, May 29 2020 6 Sivan 5780