The second of the three Biblical pilgrimage holidays – Shavuot – begins next Tuesday evening.
It was on Shavuot, of course, that a rabble of slaves began the never-ending process of being a people governed by law with one time-transcending mission: to make God’s world as He intended it to be, namely, Heaven-on-earth.
Rabbi Marc D. Angel Founder and Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, brings a number of insights about the holiday in the most recent posting on the institute’s website. I reproduce only one of them because of its potentially magnetic pull especially upon the younger generation of North American Jews.
“Another lesson of the Revelation is that the Torah provides a grand and universal religious vision. A famous Midrash teaches that the Revelation at Sinai was split into 70 languages i.e. contained a message for the 70 nations of the world (understood to refer to all humanity). The Torah is not to be understood or limited as being a narrow message intended for a small sect. The Torah is not to be limited to a reclusive people living in self-contained ghettoes; rather, it is to provide spiritual insight to all humanity. The great 19th century Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh stressed Israel’s role as the most universal of religions, a religion that provides the moral framework for civilization a whole.”
Rabbi Eliyahu Benamozegh’s statement is clearly one of the theological anchors for the concept of “tikkun olam (b’malchut Shaddai)” one of the many Judaic prescriptions that compel us to embrace social action in the service of the betterment of the world.
It is through Jewish education that we imbue our children with the spiritual, intellectual, emotional and theological foundation to enable them to understand and then to grasp this life-affirming message of our faith.
We are reminded of this on Shavuot.
And Shavuot reminds us of the irreplaceability of Jewish education if we are to raise children fully aware of the source of their strength as contributing members to the improvement of an increasingly needy world.
Our task is to make it affordable.
Shabbat shalom. Chag Shavuot samayach.