A Thought for Shavuos
“Do you solemnly affirm…?”
Yesterday morning I heard those words as I raised my right hand to affirm on behalf of Risya Laya her allegiance to the United States of America.
But it was when I heard Rivka, a new Jewess affirming her conversion yesterday afternoon that really brought a tear to my eye.
Watching her accept and embrace the words of Rus, (recited by many on Shavuos) “your people are my people, your G-d is my G-d” was truly moving.
I suddenly felt what it must have been like when our ancestors affirmed to “accept to uphold and observe the Torah” (as Rivka said yesterday and our ancestors did) 3,324 years ago – this weekend.
Listening to the sincerity in Rivka’s voice as she uttered her declaration of faith and devout commitment on Thursday afternoon at the time of her conversion, the contrast couldn’t escape me.
Living in a world where a “friend,” made or lost, is only a click away, where wealth, made or lost, is also only a click away (see “facebook share price” for more on that) the level of truth and depth of her words were refreshing to say the least.
“Your People are My People.” When Rus told that to Naomi thousands of years ago, there’s no question that it wasn’t the fun and excitement of being Jewish, Mark Zuckerberg’s Judaism notwithstanding, that she was referring to. It was a commitment to the way of Torah despite the sacrifices it would require.
It was a time of starvation and hunger when Naomi suggested that her widowed daughters in law remain in Moab while she returned to poverty stricken Israel.
But it was precisely poverty, and the Torah’s requirements that we provide for the poor - especially in the agricultural laws – that ultimately brought Rus to prosperity, to dignity in marrying Boaz the Judge, and, as grandmother of Dovid Hamelech, even Royalty.
The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni says that the association of Shavuos with the book of Rus is to show us Torah can only be acquired with sacrifice.
For the “Chosen” “People of the Book” Shavuos is the anniversary of both the Choice and the Book that brought that choice about. No, it wasn’t the day when G-d clicked ‘like’ on our status – it’s when He gave us an eternal responsibility to live His Torah.
So long that it’s all about clicking “like” on Torah, the choice doesn’t mean much – like the share price. In a world where words, actions and even relationships have lost their value, Shavuot reminds us that it’s time to reexamine who and what we live for. While Wall Street is looking more and more like the Wild West the eternal truths of Torah are more relevant than ever.
Our children must see their parents alive and aware of a vibrant Jewish experience that doesn’t shy away from the hardships that come with it.
When they see the face we make about coming to Shul, the raised eyebrows at the price of Kosher meat, the disinterest in the sharper edges of being Jewish, they get the “message” that we’d rather be “friends” with Torah, than real life examples of everything that it means.
Let’s use this holiday as a time to join Rivka, Ruth and the millions of “Righteous Converts” between them, to rejuvenate our inner awareness, and our children’s understanding, that living the Jewish life according to Torah isn’t something we “like” – it’s who we are.
That’s something they’ll understand – and probably ‘like’.
With blessings to “Accept” Torah with Inner Joy,
Rabbi Asher Deren