As Passover becomes a glimmer of the past, we now look to celebrate our next Holy Day, Shavuot, embracing Torah and dancing just like a wedding. In fact, Shavuot means weeks and to swear an oath. The Torah tells us to count seven “weeks” from the second day of Passover until the fiftieth day, which is celebrated by bringing an offering of new grain.
Originally, as an agricultural people, Jews celebrated this time by harvesting, gathering and offering grains. Passover, which was highlighted by barley, was associated with Egyptian slavery and our journey of liberation, while Shavuot, when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, was associated with wheat, representing spiritual sustenance. Receiving the Torah was the moment of confirming our covenant with G-d and accepting all that the Torah teaches. In the span of fifty days, we now celebrate a people that languished as slaves for hundreds of years finally sharing a direction towards a better life that would bring purpose, healing and hope.
But true to the word’s double meaning, Shavuot is also like a wedding. G-d, the groom, becomes unified with Am Yisrael, the bride. It is an act of K’doshin, sanctification, like standing under the Chuppah, the wedding canopy, stating our vows of commitment and loyalty to our betrothed. In fact, the Zohar teaches that the seven weeks of counting the omer — in which we mark each day with an inner exploration of our core values and character — is really a preparation for the bride to blissfully marry her beloved.
This wedding is not only an earthly activity we embrace and repeat, year after year, but it is also a theurgic moment that is reflected in a higher world, bringing the heavenly couple, Kadosh Baruch Hu,the groom, and Shechinah, the bride above. In accepting Torah and all of its wondrous teachings, we re-enliven the mystical ketubah for our royal couple in their heavenly thrones. As the Kabbalists teach, “so below, so above.”
The Torah, the centerpiece of this ceremonial recreation, is the heart and soul of our relationship with the Divine. It reflects the mind of our Creator, the intention of G-d’s Will and purpose for each of us. It is the vows of a devoted spouse, the clarifying wisdom of a teacher, the philosophic guidance of a great sage, a deep well of perceptions and “enlightenment” and expanded consciousness.
The Torah, the centerpiece of this ceremonial recreation, is the heart and soul of our relationship with the Divine.
Torah is all of this and more. It saved our people when the Great Temple was destroyed and Judaism as we once knew it ended. And it opened a doorway to learning and education as we began to understand it. Its laws, the earliest of its kind, teach us about love, kindness and compassion, and its stories open us to identification, empathy and transformation. Its leaders teach us about humanity, flaws and fallibility, and its heroes teach us about courage, risk and resilience. The Torah reminds of the sins we committed while also offering the grace and forgiveness of our Holy Father/Mother, teaching ways we too must live.
The Torah is a Tree of Life deeply rooted in the past with branches that reach to the future, constantly blossoming with new leaves and luscious fruit that nourish our souls and expand our awareness in the present. She remains constant in our lives, from generation to generation, yet is renewed and re-understood by each person who engages with her. She offers pearls to those who love her and a crown to those who challenge her. She sets a calendar of festivals bringing meaning, joy and celebration, and she outlines the history we must remember and honor, so we know from where we’ve come.
The Torah draws our people together so they gather, listen and learn, and it creates opportunities to sing and chant, realigning us with the heavenly choir. She is the chariot that moves us through time and carries us back to her Creator, our partner. She is the black flame of wisdom on the white flame of holy light.
May you embrace this most precious gift and celebrate with exuberance and joy, the culmination of “weeks” of preparation and the glorious nuptials, both in this world and the one beyond.
Eva Robbins is a rabbi, cantor, artist and the author of “Spiritual Surgery: A Journey of Healing Mind, Body and Spirit.”