A SHORT STUDY OF SHAVUOT, PENTACOST, commemorating the giving of the Torah; this one day holiday lacks the mass impact of Passover and Succot, with their rich 7-8 day repertoire of symbolic mitzvos. Yet it is the culmination and goal of the 7 week daily countup after Passover.
THE TORAH READING IS EX. 19-20: JEWISH UNITY had to precede Torah- ISRAEL (first) CAMPED (sing., as one person) ABOUT THE MOUNT (19:2); Moshe ascends. God tells him to remind the Jews of Exodus. Tho He's universal, they will be His special treasure, IF they really hear His voice and heed His covenant - to be a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND A HOLY (model) NATION to humanity. Their unamimous response is relayed by Moshe: ALL THAT GOD SAID, WE SHALL DO! God then tells him to sanctify the people for 2 days, prior to Sinai's revelation. Thunder, lightning and thick clouds envelop Mt. Sinai at the 3rd day's dawn. All are awe-struck as an intense shofar wail grows louder and louder. Moshe speaks- God responds. He calls Moshe up, twice warning the people to stay back. MOSHE RETURNS TO BE WITH THE JEWS! God then delivers the 10 Axioms, further developed in the 613 Commandments.
CH. 20: 1. I AM GOD, YOUR LORD, WHO TOOK YOU OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, THE HOUSE OF SLAVES. (The Egyptians are the slaves, to their own impulses- ultimate freedom is internal).
2. YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER LORDS IN MY PRESENCE (everywhere and forever) YOU SHALL NOT CARVE OR REPRESENT THAT IN HEAVEN ABOVE, THAT ON EARTH BELOW, OR IN THE WATER BELOW THE EARTH. DON'T BOW DOWN TO THEM, NOR SERVE THEM, FOR I, GOD, AM YOUR LORD, AN AVENGING POWER (toward those denying His exclusivity), WHO TAKES THE SINS OF FATHERS INTO ACCOUNT AS RELEVANT TO THEIR DESCENDANTS FOR 3-4 GENERATIONS FOR THOSE WHO HATE ME, AND WHO DOES KINDNESS FOR 1000'S (of generations) FOR THOSE WHO LOVE ME AND KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS (true love results in action, mitzvos) .
3. YOU SHALL NOT BEAR GOD'S NAME IN VAIN- GOD WILL NOT HOLD SUCH A MAN GUILTLESS. Speech, a sign of Divinity in Man, is a powerful holy force, as is God's Name- both are the means of Creation.
4. KEEP THE SABBATH DAY IN MIND. MAKE IT DISTINCTLY HOLY. WORK 6 DAYS. PERFORM ALL YOUR TASKS, BUT THE 7TH DAY IS HOLY TO GOD, YOUR LORD. DON'T DO CREATIVE PHYSICAL WORK ON IT - NOT YOU, YOUR SON, YOUR DAUGHTER, YOUR MALE OR FEMALE SERVANT, YOUR ANIMAL, OR YOUR STRANGER, WHO'S WITHIN YOUR GATES. The Jew revives the universal Shabbat celebration of Creation, forgotten by mankind (but cf. 7th Day Adventists).
5. HONOR (treat well) YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER - this fiat bridges interpersonal and Divine morality. Care and reverence for one's parents, his life giving origin and link to God, lead to gratitude and awe vis-a-vis God, per Rav J. Soloveichik. .
6. DO NOT MURDER. But killing is sometimes commanded.
7. DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY= don't take another's wife. More than one wife is Biblically allowed- if each is his alone, paternity is clear. R. Gershom prohibited Ashkenazi polygamy about 1000 years ago (a decree deplored by Sh'alot Yavetz II:15); Israeli rabbis outlawed it for all Jews in 1951.
8. DO NOT STEAL (Per Targ. Yon.) , or DO NOT KIDNAP (per Mechilta, San. 86); theft is prohibited in Lev. 19:11- YOU (Pl.) SHALL NOT STEAL .
9. DON'T GIVE FALSE WITNESS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR. Hearsay evidence is also forbidden.
10. DO NOT COVET (envy) YOUR NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE, WIFE, MALE OR FEMALE SERVANT, OX OR ASS, OR ANYTHING ELSE BELONGING TO YOUR NEIGHBOR. Some only prohibit ACTION to get them, e.g. pressuring him to sell. Others include arousing envious feelings.
This mind-blowing Divine display impresses even the least sensitive. But after some words with the people, Moshe returns to the Divine mist, a deeper inner region, to really know God, and get further instructions (Likutei Maharil) . He's to order the Jews not to make idols, even of somewhat Divine beings (e.g. angels, celestial bodies). Sacrifices require an altar of earth; the eventual stone altar is not to be of hewn stone (a profanity, due to associations with swords). A ramp, not steps, leads to the altar to conceal (even a suggestion of) the cohen's nakedness (he wore breeches). WHEREVER God is mentioned (tabernacle and temple), He will (again) come down and bless the Jews. Grand revelation thus culminates in ultra- sensitive detailed Temple laws, Divine inoculations against power trips and pleasure pursuits.
MAFTIR, NUM. 28:26-31, describes the special sacrifices of the festival.
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