The holiday of Shavuot falls out this year is tonight Thursday May 28th and tomorrow night. The word Shavuot means “weeks” and this holiday is mentioned in Leviticus Chapter 23.
How badly do you want wisdom?
Because the Torah was given to man on this day, the sages say that the storehouses of wisdom open up every year on the same day. That’s the power and the opportunity of the day. It’s mind boggling to imagine how much insight is available. How do I be a better husband/wife? How do I get more of what I want rom my relationships? How do I attain true happiness? What does it really mean to “walk with God?” How do we wipe out hunger and war? All of this information and more is at your fingertips.
But Rabbi,? you ask, “how come I don’t get this information every year? Last year I even went to synagogue, and ate cheesecake, and I still didn’t feel any wiser?
The answer is, how badly do you want it? There are many things we can ask from God. We can beg and plead and He still won’t give it to us, no matter how badly we want it. Because in His eyes it’s not good for us. If winning the lottery would be good for me He’d help me win the lottery. Obviously He and I don’t always see things eye to eye. But you can’t say that about wisdom. He wants wisdom for all His children. He’s got it to give, but we’re not begging for it. When a loved one is ill we can cry and pray. When there’s something we’re desperate for we can cry and pray. The Talmud says that the gates of prayer in heaven always open up for tears. Let your eyeballs show how badly you want wisdom, and I guarantee results.
Wisdom is for everyone
The Torah does not begin with the Exodus. It starts with creation, the beginning of the universe. It describes humanity and the history that defined all of man. It finishes as a divine mandate for the Jews, but oddly enough it asks of them to be a light unto the nations. That is, it seems even after the Jews are singled out to be unique, God’s focus is still on all humanity. He wants the consciousness of all men to be one with Him. There are basic moral and ethical principles in the Torah that are obligatory for all people. There are other principles that were given as an obligation to the Jews, yet are still relevant to all people as an ideal. It’s a commandment to return a lost object. Even if this is not obligatory for all people, certainly a person would be considered more righteous if they fulfilled it. “Finders keepers, losers weepers just doesn’t have a holy ring to it.
There’s no mitzvah to convert people to Judaism, yet you should be an attractive example. If the Torah were fulfilled properly by the Jews, they would be a magnet for potential converts. Other people are supposed to see the wisdom and beauty of God’s commandments through the Jews. Not only that, but even though many people are Moslem and Christian and therefore have accepted our notion of an infinite Creator, many others are atheist, agnostic, or pagan and therefore should be straightened out as to the truth. You don’t need to go door to door, but certainly if you have an acquaintance that doesn’t realize there’s one God, you should present the evidence for your conviction. Monotheism is our motto. That’s the message of the Shma.
Instructions for living
The Torah is not merely a set of moral principles. It is God’s’instruction manual as to how to get the most out of life. If you look at any mitzvah as a burden, you’ve got the wrong idea. God doesn’t need us to make a moral world. If He wanted He could have made robots for that. He wants us to attain the greatest pleasures possible. The Torah’s principles are designed just for that. They emphasize the spiritual because it’s spirituality that is the greatest pleasure. A delicious meal from soup to nuts, including chocolate mousse for dessert, is more enjoyable when it’s celebrating a special occasion. That’s why Shabbat includes a festive meal. Sex without love is an empty experience. That’s why the Torah requires a marriage commitment. Everything in the physical world is meant to be elevated to a higher level of use. The wisdom in the Torah is the antidote to all the ills of mankind. Its insights can allow you to access the awesomeness of this place we call the universe, and put the essence and the power of this universe in the palm of your hand. It’s your inheritance.