Shavuot is a rabbinic holiday overlaid upon an agricultural one: chag hakatzir (the holiday of reaping the harvest) and yom habikkurim (the day of the first fruits) which then became zman matan torateinu – the time of the giving of the Torah. And it’s the time of the giving of the Torah – and not, in its name, the receiving of the Torah because, in a sense, a person can give a gift, but only the recipient can decide if s/he wants to receive it. Thus each year, as it were, the Torah is given – and we each get to decide whether and how we receive it.
Our theme quote – “the Torah is a commentary on the world, and the world is a commentary on the Torah” – indirectly acknowledges this. If the world is different today than it was a year ago, and if I’m different than I was a year ago, then I must necessarily receive the Torah in a slightly different way, hearing different things, noticing different ideas, challenged in new ways.
If you have the habit of printing or taking interesting things to read at least sometimes when you’re in shul, (as I do, and Ruth Messinger does and a number of people I know), here’s a rather remarkable speech that Prince Charles gave a year ago at Georgetown. (Given that I went to Georgetown, and that I’m one of five Brits on Hazon’s board, I can’t believe that I only just came across this speech.) It’s short, comprehensive, radical, and it’s grounded in work that Prince Charles has been doing now for a quarter of a century. I think it’s a good thing to read as we receive the Torah this weekend, and think about what it means to be Jewish, and what it means to be alive, at this moment.
Shabbat shalom, chag sameach.