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Shavuot - Giving Our Torah




3 June 2014 / 5 Sivan 4774


The Mysteries of the Torah


In the Western world our codes of law are based on these 10 simple, but powerful phrases. The Ten Commandments: instantly recognizable words that changed the world forever.


While the world continues to transform, these codes of law given by God remain constant. They are the foundation of our moral and legal compass. These 10 statements were not given as suggestions, they are not negotiable, they are compulsory. 


How did the Ten Commandments

and Torah Come to be?


Most of us have been exposed to the simplified version of the giving of the Ten Commandments: Israelites are freed from Egypt, wandered in the desert, came to Mount Sinai, God told Moses, Moses told the rest. This is not wrong, just simple.


The giving of the Ten Commandments was an enormous spiritual manifestation. It took 49 days from the Exodus until the hearts, souls and minds of the Israelites were ready to receive the Laws of God. This was of the utmost importance because God was not only going to give them 10 rules to follow, but an entire five volume narrative of history, laws and instruction.


Moses led the children of Israel to Mount Sinai where they would learn how to follow God's requirements. Moses when up the mountain to talk with God and here God gave Moses the opportunity for all the people to make a covenant with Him. When Moses presented the children of Israel this opportunity, they answered with one voice, all Twelve Tribes of Israel

Moses continued to make the voyage up and down the mountain several times while God revealed the Torah. He would tell some to Moses and Moses would return to give the Word to the nation of Israel and would write it down: seems likes a straightforward process.


Nevertheless, it is this point that has perplexed Biblical scholars for centuries. What exactly was happening on Mount Sinai? Was God revealing to Moses the Torah in its entirety, even the events that had not happened? Or was God giving just the laws and the civil code of conduct for the people to follow?


According to Jewish thought, the Torah was created by God before the creation. It was then used as a blueprint for the creation and the subsequent events of Man. However, the Torah was not revealed until God wanted it revealed.


The most common notion is that in Exodus 24:4 Moses wrote down all of Genesis and Exodus up until that moment. Then he took the people to Mount Sinai where God first reveals the Ten Commandments. Here He laid down the foundation for all other laws. These covered the human relationship with God and humans' relationship with one another. With that covered God then began revealing other parts of the Torah.  


On other trips of the mountain God reveals the civil code of conduct as written in the rest of Exodus and Leviticus. It is widely believed that God continues to enlighten Moses with details of the code of conduct throughout the remaining 39 years in the desert.


God then told Moses he would continue to reveal the remainder of the Torah to him, but later as they awaited the Promised Land. This went on for 39 years which is why the children of Israel are reminded of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5.


It is generally agreed upon that Moses was the author of the Five Books of the Torah. One final and perhaps most curious question from scholars come from Deuteronomy 34:5: did Moses write about his own death or did someone else such as Joshua finish the Book of Deuteronomy? 


No one really know for sure, but one of the most reflective answers to this question is found in the Mishna, the codification of Jewish Oral Tradition, "Up to this point, God spoke and Moses repeated and wrote; after this point, God spoke and Moses wrote in tears."


God's ways are mysterious. As Believers we can only trust in God to reveal Himself and the answers we seek.  In the tradition of Shavuot, we can contemplate the Torah and its mysteries as the answers lie within.




The Two Sides

of Shavuot


Shavuot commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai—one of the biggest events in Jewish history – but it is also known by another name, Hag ha'Bikkurim, the Festival of First Fruits. To honor the holiday Israelites brought the first fruits to the Temple as an offering.


"Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord." ~Leviticus 23:16.


Their offerings no doubt included the seven biblical species: olives, grapes, wheat, barley, figs, dates (plus date honey), and pomegranates, all of which are abundantly produced in Israel today.


Traditional fare for Shavuot is dairy products and fruit, no meat is served. This is because amongst all the laws God gave on Mount Sinai were those for kosher guidelines. The children of Israel did not have any cooking vessels tainted with unkosher meat, they celebrated with dairy foods because they could not prepare meat dishes as per God's instructions.


Continue learning about

the Seven Species...

The Meaning of Shavuot


The word Shavuot means "Weeks." It refers to the seven weeks it took the Israelites from the Exodus to get to Mount Sinai.


These 49 days that connect Passover with Shavuot are called the "Counting of the Omer" or in Hebrew, "Sefirat HaOmer" (Omer" means sheaf).  


In Leviticus 23:15 the Torah tells us that we should count from the day of the Passover offering until the day the Torah was given by God.




Yigal Alon Center, Kibbutz Ginosar, Israel



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