May/June 2023


Shavuot (May 26-27, 2023), our "forgotten festival" is ironically the most essential of all our Holy Days since it commemorates the giving and the receiving of the Commandments (the Torah). It forever forged Jewish identity. Perhaps because there is no "Seder Feast" or "Sukkah booth" or maybe because it lasts for only one day (instead of one week), the Shavuot Festival has been neglected and ignored. However, this Festival marking the revelation of the Ten Commandments is crucial and indispensable. 


If skeptical, unbelieving moderns reject the tradition of Shavuot which relates the high drama of God giving the commandments at Sinai, then one is left with mere human beings as the exclusive, authoritative source of "right and wrong". But human beings can be wrong, bribed, wicked or fickle. They also can honestly change their minds as regards any given question. Their thinking can evolve.


Shavuot forever establishes the kingship of God as the source of right and wrong and therefore the scroll of the Torah is adorned with a silver crown representing supreme authority. Of all Hebrew metaphors for God (Creator, Shepherd, Judge, Father, etc.) "King" is most often invoked. Religious Jews refer to God as "King of the Universe" (Melekh Ha-olam) no fewer than one hundred times each day. Although Scripture relates that many kings of Israel were evil, wicked individuals, (and indeed, all nations, even modern, so-called advanced and enlightened societies have throughout history, committed crimes, and acted immorally) this monarchical epithet (Melekh Ha-OlAm) endured and remains the most popular metaphor for the Divine. "King" ordinarily refers to the source of law and Shavuot established the Hebrew people as the people of the law, the children of Royalty.


For nearly 2,000 years, all science, learning, speculation and scholarship in the western world was ecclesiastic and Biblically based and yet, the perpetual teaching of the universal brotherhood of humankind ("Have we not all one Father?" "Did not one God create us all?") was not sufficient to convince western societies and their leaders to treat everyone justly/ equally. For this, law was required. Only when the National Guard was summoned by the President could African American children be permitted to attend public schools with white children. Two millennia of spiritual teachings, homiletics and sermons emanating from the all-powerful church could not accomplish this.


The law/Torah is clearly essential, and Shavuot celebrates this fact. As our Sages asked: For what greater guide could we abandon our Covenant? What can possibly substitute for the treasure that is our Torah? Chag Sammayach!