Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shavuot - Teacher Torah

The festival of Shavuot is the celebration of the “giving” of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. As many commentators have pointed out there is no giving without the ability to receive and so Shavuot is also the celebration of the “receiving” of the Torah. The word Torah itself comes from “horah” which means, “to teach.” As educators, we can understand Shavuot as a holiday about the giving and receiving of knowledge, a celebration of the process of teaching. Like teaching, Shavuot does not just happen. Before Shavuot we undergo the training period of the Omer, a period of 49 days which we are to dedicate to self-reflection and refinement of our character. At Mt. Sinai there were also three days of intensive preparation just before the big event. The Jewish people bathed, separated themselves from family life and turned inward. In other words, education doesn’t just happen. We don’t just hand over the big lesson, the students need to be prepared and built up over time to receive what it is that we have to give. As in the process of the Omer, that building-up has as much to do with their character and their spirit, as it has to do with their intellects. No matter how great the lesson there has to be a prepared student to receive it. Sinai was the ultimate multi-media presentation. It was a sound and light show complete with lasers and trippy synaesthetic experiences (seeing sounds etc.). The Talmud tells us that it was simulcasted in 70 languages. There was great classroom discipline. (A mountain held over your head gives a whole new meaning to the word “suspension”) It was the most exciting lesson plan of all time. Yet, the beauty of that presentation would have been lost without the preparation. The take-home lesson for educators is simple enough. Our job is not just to give to our students but also to help create the vessel which can receive. May Hashem (G-d) help us all to build those vessels and fill them with all that is most worthy and good!