Torah for All
Shavuot is one of the Shlosh Regalim, or Three Festivals. In times when the Holy Temple still stood in Jerusalem, the Israelites made pilgrimage to the Temple for these three holidays. In those times the traditions of the holidays were somewhat similar.
Today, Shavuot is rather different from the other two Pilgrimage Festivals. The other two are Passover and Sukkot. Both of these holidays have very specific traditions and meanings. At Passover there is the restriction of leavened products and the Seder and at Sukkot we build the Sukkah and have the tradition of the Lulav.
Modern Shavuot traditions are much less defined. Yes, there is the tradition to eat dairy foods. However, there is no grand tradition such as on the other two festivals. But let’s not sell Shavuot short just because there are no well-known traditions. The meaning and significance of Shavuot is at the very heart of Judaic traditions.
First and foremost, Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This event is as significant today as it was thousands of years ago. The ultimate message of Shavuot is the relationship between the Torah and the people of God, as a community and as individuals.
The beauty of the Torah is a living document that relates to each of us. It was not intended to be only for a select group of people to study, digest and explain to the rest of us. It was designed for all followers of God, it was meant to be embraced and internalized by each of us. Biblical scholars are a wonderful asset and bring light unto the Torah. However, it is each of us using the Torah in our daily lives that makes the Torah shine outward into the world.
On Mount Sinai every man, woman and child had an encounter with God. It is said that the Torah has been faithfully kept for thousands of years not because of any supernatural phenomena, but because we all stood at Mount Sinai and heard God speak. Generation upon generation has passed down this great gift from God.
So this Shavuot let us remember how important we each are to the life of the Torah. We also need to reach out to those who have not experienced the Torah first hand so they too can see its beauty.