The holiday of Shavuot is the time we celebrate the giving and receiving of the Torah. We study all night and traditionally eat dairy foods to commemorate our close relationship with God, as described in the Song of Songs.
We are told to always have the words of Torah ready on our lips. When Jewish people get together, we speak of Torah. We share our ideas and our studies, we dispute and disagree, and we weave our thoughts in and around Torah. We are commanded to teach Torah to our children, and the Talmud tells us that they are our greatest teachers of Torah. In this way, we understand that the way of Torah is to be both teacher and student at all times.
The text relates to us that as Israel was offered the Torah, we responded with one voice: “Na’aseh venishmah” – we will do and we will understand. Somehow we knew that the way of Torah is counter-intuitive. Normally in today’s world, we don’t proceed with action until we’ve exhausted all the research and fully understand what we’re doing. The way of Torah is to have our souls teach our bodies and to then reverse the process and have our bodies teach our souls. The understanding of Torah is to know that we exist in a materialistic world, but that there’s a spiritual world beyond.
Starting with Moses at Sinai, we understand that each of us owes a blessing to those who have taught us their Torah and moulded us into teachers who then share our Torah. On Shavuot, we should take a moment to recognize those people in our lives who taught us the ways of Torah.
The Talmud relates a beautiful blessing that the disciples of Rabbi Ammi would say to him upon departing his academy and setting forth into the world. From the ancient texts come the moving words they spoke which can teach us to appreciate and express our gratitude:
May your heart meditate understanding,
Your mouth speak wisdom,
And your tongue be moved to song.
May your gaze scan what lies ahead,
Your eyes shine with light of Torah
Your face be radiant as the brightness of the firmament.
May your lips utter knowledge,
Your reins rejoice in uprightness,
And your steps hurry to hear the words of the Ancient of Days.