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Happy Giving of Torah - 2016

Last evening, Saturday night, we have marked the end of Shabbat and the beginning of Shavuot, Time of the Giving of the Torah.

We affiliate ourselves with the conservative community of the Minyan Masorti in Kfar Vradim. In the synagogue, we celebrated by having a community dinner and then studying together until nearly midnight. The study subjects had to do with Ruth Scroll and the Giving of the Torah.

[Many are unfamiliar with the differences between the various Jewish movements, except for the binary civil/orthodox. I recommend acquainting yourselves with the principal differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews, to begin with.]

Sheaf of barley - giving of Torah

I would like to share with you the realization that hit me, resonating so well with all I knew and understood before about the Torah. In this spirit I have designed the greeting card below, way before last night’s study session.

This inspiration appeared during the second and last part of the study session. We have read a Talmud page on the importance of the Giving of Torah at Mount Sinai. It was directed by Natali Lesterger, a candidate for Rabbi for our congregation.

To clarify: I do not, God forbid, aim to turn anyone back to Judaism, read a sermon or berate anyone for practicing the orthodox way (which is completely alien to me). God forbid! I only wish to share an inspiration, connecting harmoniously to all I have realized before about the world. This includes Quality Assurance, education, coaching and many other things, constituting my view the world. And for this I am very grateful today.

The Tree of Life, by Gustav Klimt, 1905
עץ החיים, גוסטב קלימט, 1905

She [Torah] is a tree of life to those who take hold of her

Over the last dozen of years or so, I have the growing realization that the Torah is a manner of User’s Manual for good life. For a long, healthy life, including abundance in every way. The choice is whether to follow it – and then there is a promise to enjoy said abundance; or not. However, it is not a buffet meal. That is to say, if you chose to follow (a), (b) and (n) and disregard all else, there is no promise of same abundance. There may be, and then there may not be, it is unclear. Perhaps – in part, yes, but there are no promises. It is formulated so gloriously in Proverbs 3:18: “She [Torah] is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold on to her are blessed [happy]”.

When you buy a car or a machine of some sort, it comes with a User’s Manual, working much in the same manner. If you use it not according to the manual, there is no warranty, for it is unclear what would happen. Could be – nothing, and could be – a major malfunction. In any case, it is under your own responsibility. And you are fine with it, aren’t you?

On Shavuot the Jews give thanks for being granted the Torah, the tree of life. And I have been told that the Kabbalistic meaning of Shavuot is making a true change.

User's manual

The Midrash we have seen last night states that the very fact of the whole world, the entire creation, depended on the People of Israel choosing to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. I shall not weary you with the details and particulars of what each Rabbi said, to whom and why, only the bottom line. These are the Ultimate Rules for good, long, healthy life of abundance  in every possible way. This is the promise, on one condition

Which connects perfectly to the realization that Torah is a User Manual for living a good life. And the condition is that we use what we have been given as instructed.

But not just this. We know, we are eventually to serve as “light for the other Peoples”. It means that we chose to use what we were given in this world as instructed – or not, – and reap the results, accordingly. By the way, this also coincides with my understanding about “the chosen people”. We weren’t chose – we chose, and we keep choosing daily to this day. This is what makes us special, stand apart – segula. And when we shall choose to use the instructions, we shall be able to show others, they work.

Now, we know they do. Throughout history the Jewish people succeeds against all odds and defying all logic. We are the oldest people in the world with the same traditions, language, history as thousands of years ago. That despite the fact that “every generation they rise to eliminate us”. We also know that the farther we stray from these instructions, the worse our results. The less abundance in every way, the more “troubles and tribulations”, the more difficulties and complaints. Once I had a hard time to accept such a concept, but now I know it is true. I see evidence for it everywhere. Not from faith – but observation and reason.

Illustration: Torah is like a user manual

We will do and hearken therein

But the most important thing I understood last night was this. The Torah was not given only to us, we are simply the ones who chose to accept it. We said: “All things whatsoever the Lord has spoken we will do and hearken therein” (Exodus 24:7, Brenton Septuagint Translation). Torah exists and is available for all who wants to take it and use what they’ve been given, according to the instructions. The promise also exists in alignment with the rules.

It is not a prize, given to us for good behaviour by a deity. It is our own promise to receive the wanted result via correct exploitation. For the whole creation, the whole world, depends on the ability of people to live s good, long, healthy and abundant life. The less our lives are aligned with the rules – the greater the catastrophes. Not just for the Jews – for everybody.

So I would like to wish you all Happy Shavuot, and to understand how to make a true change in our lives, so that we may use what we have in this world properly, as instructed by the Torah. It is not self evident, as thousands of different interpretations prove. Look for the interpretation which is most harmonic for you. Which most resonates with the above. Go for it in your own time, your own understanding, with or without belief in God in this or other way. Whatever works best for you.

And then, the promise is achieving balance, harmony and abundance in all possible sphere.

I have designed a special greeting card for this holiday, click on the picture below to enlarge.

Greetings for Giving of Torah 2016

Picture of the tree of life: Tree of Life, by Gustav Klimt, 1905. Image take from Gustav Klimt’s official website.

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