The Month of Revelation and the Fruits of Summer

The Torah was given in public, openly in a free place. For had the Torah been given in Eretz Yisrael, the Israelites could have said to the nations of the world,“You have no share in it.” But now that it was given in the wilderness publicly and openly in a place that is free for all, everyone who wishing to accept it could….Another reason: to avoid causing dissension among the tribes. Else one might have said,“In my territory the Torah was given…therefore the Torah was given in the desert, publicly and openly, in a place belonging to no one.

Mechilta de R. Ishmael (Ex. 19.2, 20.2)

We are not born free and equal, but we are born to become free and equal. It is the goal of all social endeavor to bring about equality in the inequality into which people are born. It is the goal of spiritual endeavor to make humanity free.

 – R. Mordecai M. Kaplan, Diary, June 1915

This month heralds in Shavuot, one of our three regalim or pilgrimage festivals, which originated as an agricultural event in biblical times. It celebrates the beginning (the “first fruits”) of the wheat harvest in Israel, which continues throughout the summer and ends with Sukkot in the fall:

“On the day of the first fruits, your Feast of Shavuot, when you bring an offering of new grain to the Eternal, you shall observe a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations” (Numbers 28).“Then you shall observe the Feast of Weeks for the Eternal your God, offering your freewill contribution according as the Eternal your God has blessed you.You shall rejoice before the Eternal your God” (Deuteronomy 16).

      In later centuries, when we were disconnected or driven from lands where we had farmed, and in times of exile,        we transformed this idea and began to view the Torah itself and revelation as the first fruit- and Shavuot as the        annual downloading from the mainframe of Divine Truth to us wherever we were.

As Rabbi Emanuel Goldsmith, a student of Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan wrote in Reconstructionism Today, Spring 2002: “For Reconstructionist Jews, the Torah is divine not in the sense that God dictated it to Moses, but in the sense that the Process by which our people discovered its laws, spun its narratives and authored its poetry is exactly what we mean by God. Even the ethical shortcomings of the Torah are a source of insight and instruction for us. In periods of religious introspection and exaltation, this spirit gives voice to those eternal ethical and spiritual insights in which we behold manifestations of a Power that is the ultimate source…”

      Riding the wave of the seven weeks of counting the Omer, we will be “re-gathering around the foot of the        mountain” together, as we did two years ago, at the home of Lynne Iser and Rabbi Mordechai Liebling (thank you            both!).We will have a full program of wonderful teachers, service leaders, movement and chant from 7:00 p.m.        - 7:00 a.m.

As we open to whatever is revealed to us this month, remember that your particular voice and journey offers new insights to the Torah we have inherited. As Rabbi Lawrence Kushner writes in “God Was in This Place” p. 178:“Each person has a Torah, unique to that person, his or her innermost teaching. Some people seem to know their ‘Torahs’ very early in life and speak and sing them in a myriad of ways. Others spend their whole lives stammering, shaping, and rehearsing them. Some are long, some are short. Some are intricate and poetic; others are only a few words and still others can only be spoken by gesture and example. But every Soul has a Torah.To hear another, say their Torah is a precious gift”.

Especially in the deeply challenging, sometimes distressing and often activating times we live in politically and environmentally, we need each other’s Torah and the values and teachings of our people and of Mishkan Shalom to grow and flourish.

I look forward to seeing you soon, at the Sinai of Shavuot and at Shabbat Under the Stars this coming month.












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