DVAR TORAH | May 23, 2014

Shavuot – the giving of the Torah

The Torah was given by G-d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3,300 years ago. Every year, on the holiday of Shavuot, this year, June 3-5, we renew our acceptance of G-d’s gift, and G-d “re-gives” the Torah.

Before G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, He demanded guarantors. The Jews made a number of suggestions, all rejected by G-d, until they declared, “Our children will be our guarantors that we will cherish and observe the Torah.” G-d immediately accepted them and agreed to give the Torah.

King Solomon said (Proverbs 22:6), “Educate the child according to his way; even when he will be old, he will not depart from it.”

Studies show that what happens at home is a primary long-term indicator of future Jewish life. It makes sense: If parents are serious about passing along the tradition, it will matter to the kids. Surprisingly, such wisdom has been right before our eyes all the time. The Sh’ma prayer commands us: v’shinantem levanekha, “impress [these teachings] upon your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Many Jews know the prayer, but too few of us heed its call to pass along Jewish tradition directly to our children and grandchildren. Instead, we ask professionals to do all the work.

The solution is to put families back at the center of Jewish education – teaching our own kids and their friends about Judaism.

By taking charge of transmitting Jewish tradition to their kids, parents themselves become curious learners and more confident Jews. The impact of empowering parents is unparalleled by anything else.

I would like to suggest we start with reciting the “Shema” – the biblical paragraph (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), with our children every morning and night. It starts with Judaism’s defining statement: Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.

Shema then discusses some of Judaism’s basics: love of G-d, Torah study, the principle of divine reward and punishment, and our exodus from Egypt.

Contemplating these words enables us to see beyond the mirage and live accordingly.

May G-d have mercy and bless us all with much and true happiness from all our children and bring the ultimate redemption together with the coming of Moshiach, Have a very happy Yom Tov.

Please remember to light candles for Shabbat on Fridays, May 23 at 8:35 p.m. and May 31 at 8:40 p.m.; for Shavuot on Tuesday, June 3, at 8:43 p.m. and Wednesday, June 4, after 9:49 p.m.; and for Shabbat on Fridays, June 6 at 8:45 p.m., June 13 at 8:49 p.m., June 20 at 8:51 p.m. and June 27 at 8:52 p.m.

Editor’s note: Rabbi Yosef Levy, a Chabad rabbi and the OU Kosher expert and rabbinic field representative for the states of Kentucky and Indiana, has volunteered to provide Torah commentaries for Community. For more information about Judaism, Rabbi Levy recommends going to www.chabad.org.

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