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The giving of the Torah

The Torah teaches us that despite the problems that we face in life, we can still lead kind, just and dignified lives.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2006 14:31 IST

Shavuoth is both the harvest feast and the feast of offering the first ripened fruit, including wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. It is also the festival of The Giving of the Torah: Zeman Mattan Torathenu (Exodus: 19). In fact, it is the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments.

But why is it "the giving of the Torah" and not "the receiving of the Torah"? The answer is: "The giving of the Torah was on Shavuoth. The receiving of the Torah must happen every day of the year." It seems there were pre-conditions before Jews could accept it.

First of all Prophet Moses taught that each Jew must have compassion (Rachmones). King David taught that all Jews must practice repentance (Teshuva). And Rabbi Bal-Shem Tov taught that Jews must believe in unity and that the Torah connects all Jews to humanity.

The Torah teaches us that despite the problems that we face in life, we can still lead kind, just and dignified lives. The importance of the Ten Commandments lies in the moral and ethical purpose with which it invests man's existence. God places man's duty to man on the same level as man's duty to God. So one cannot say, "How I behave towards my fellow man is not important as long as I believe in God and pray to Him." Nor can one say, "I do not have to believe in God as long as I behave properly towards others."

On Shavuot, the synagogue is decorated with greenery in commemoration of the original harvest and the Torah's perennial freshness. Tradition has it that King David was born and died on Shavuoth. It is therefore customary to read all 150 Psalms on the second evening of Shavuoth, since he was the Psalmist. At home, dairy foods and honey are served, symbolizing the Jews' joy in the Torah, which is compared to "milk and honey", nourishing and sweet. This year, Shavouth is from the sunset of June 1 till the sunset of June 2.