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!


  1. Salamu 'alaykum ya Jihadi Jew. I am a devout Muslim, and I recently joined an interfaith event at my local Masjid. A jewish man made a comment that caught me off guard. He said, "Islam has a character called Iblis or Shaytan, and I think you Christians call him Satan. But, we don't have much mention of this character in our faith....".
    Being that this is the enemy of human kind and that seems to have been one of the main focuses of Gods revelations (Monotheism / Tawheed & Shaytan the enemy of mankind), I thought it strange to not have him mentioned in the Jewish Torah. Can you expand upon this? Thanks!

  2. The Satan is mentioned in the Torah (most prominently in the book of Iyov - Job) and certainly in the Talmud. He probably does have a somewhat less prominent place in Judaism than in Islam and Christianity. Nevertheless, the Satan as the tempter, tester and accuser is talked about frequently in Rabbinic literature and later Jewish thought. Modern "Liberal" Non-Orthodox Judaism however is very uncomfortable with the concept, as well as any concept of the afterlife. That may be from that Liberal perspective that your Jewish friend was speaking.