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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Feast of Weeks
If there's one biblical phrase that sums up Shavuot, aka the Feast of Weeks, it's "Na'aseh v'nishmah" - "We will do and we will hear" (Exodus 24:7). Shavuot is the holiday through which Jews celebrate receiving the Torah. This phrase indicates our faith in God and the rightness of His commandments in the Torah - we first commit to following the commandments, and only after that will we hear - that is, learn - what they are all about. This is counterintuitive to how we approach most other areas of knowledge - first we learn about something, then form an opinion and/or see how it can apply to our lives.

As religious Jews, we try to follow the details of the commandments even if we don't know the meaning behind them. In the course of raising children, this plays out naturally. Kids do a whole lotta stuff because they know they're supposed to, and as they grow older and can understand things in different ways they are taught (hopefully) what they might learn from these practices. As adults coming from the secular world to embrace our heritage, it's a little more difficult to accept. But I hope we can accept it, that we can trust in God and in our teachers and in all the people who have come before us that accepting the yoke of the commandments is a necessary prerequisite to fully understanding them.

As I say, this idea of acceptance without understanding is praiseworthy. However, I fear that the spirit of the second part of the phrase is often neglected. Not that there aren't plenty of people, thank God, learning Jewish texts every day. It just seems to me that I and others like me forget to search for meaning in the everyday practices that we have accepted upon ourselves. We allow them to become rote, or perhaps more accurately to remain rote.

My wish for all of us Jewish folks this Torah-receiving season is that we may continue to perform mitzvot, and whether we've been at it for a long time or a little, since birth or since return, that we may dedicate ourselves to searching for the greater meaning of all that we do.
Have a very good Yom Tov
A very informative and thought-provoking post, Ralphie.
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