Guest Author - Lisa Pinkus
At the holiday of Shavuot, we are given the Torah. Given being the emphasized word because we continuously receive the Torah.
As we move from the holiday of Passover to the celebration of Shavuot, we continue the story of the Exodus. With slavery behind us, the unknown looms before us. We move ahead in the desert with little else than our faith in G-d.
It is by no means easy, and we are not even sure what we are moving towards – aside from our freedom. Freedom, too, can become a struggle. With uncertainty, choice, and mystery before us – we can become fearful, edgy, and doubtful.
Today, as we continue to move forward in our lives, we can experience those same feelings. Our relationship to Torah and with G-d may wax and wane through our years. We may be fearful of what lies in our future and nervous about making choices we know will benefit us in the long run.
Shavuot is a holiday that has come to represent the process of receiving the Torah. Here are some suggestions for preparing for its acceptance.
Study the weekly Torah portion. If reading directly from the Bible is overwhelming, there are many great Parsha summaries that are easy to read. If you’re a true beginner, try G-dcast.com and check out their cartoon animations for each week’s Parsha.
The Torah is a blueprint for life. While some of the reading may seem archaic, our sages have provided us with interpretations that allow us to apply it to modern living. Read the stories and look for the aha! moment. There are many modern writers and thinkers who make this easy for us to do.
Take on another mitzvah. There are so many mitzvot centered on being a good person. If lighting Shabbat candles or observing the holidays are not for you, seek out the mitzvot that apply to building good character traits.
Extend your gratitude. You may not recite blessings before eating or upon waking up in the morning, but you can end your day journaling about what you have to be thankful for. As you are driving to work, take notice of the sunshine lighting up your day or the mountains with springtime budding on its hills.
Focus on one particular aspect of the Torah. Perhaps you would like to explore the Ten Commandments in greater depth. Maybe you are interested in reading the Torah Portion that was read on your Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Or, you might be interested in exploring Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers), Mussar (Character development), or Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism).
The Torah takes us beyond the notion of being a good person. The Torah is a pathway toward elevated living – making ordinary, daily actions a holy and extraordinary experience.
When we were in the desert at the base of Mount Sinai, the Jewish people said to Moses “We will do and we will hear” (Shemot 24:8). You can’t do what you haven’t heard. Listen. And learn.