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[Dvar Torah] Shavuot

Next week’s Parsha is parashat Naso. Parashat Naso describes the events that took place in the Sinai desert. In Hebrew, Naso means “to lift” or “to carry”, which connects to this parashah as Moshe had to ‘carry’ the Israelites through the Sinai desert and eventually, to the Promised Land.

Parshat Naso continues the themes that were raised in Parshat Bamidbar: the story of the census, in which G-d instructed Moses to count the people, tribe by tribe, with the tribe of Levi set apart and a description of the special jobs that the Levites had in the camp. The Levites were responsible for the Mishkan (Tabernacle); they pitched their tents immediately around it, and they were tasked with taking it down when the people traveled and then putting it back up when they encamped.

In addition, the Parsha also talks about the gifts that the heads of the 12 tribes brought to the ‘Mishkan’ - Tabernacle. In the text, it is not mentioned that Moses or G-d commanded the tribe leaders to bring gifts, showing that the leaders brought the gifts of their own free will, out of their own devotion and as an act of worship, loyalty and love.

This evening marks the start of the festival of Shavuot, when G-d gave us the Torah. For 40 days and nights Moshe was on Mount Sinai waiting to receive the Torah. Some of the traditions that we keep on Shavuot include studyig Torah all night since it was given to us on Shavuot, eating dairy, dressing in all white and reading the story of Megillat Ruth. 

Why do we read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot? According to the Midrash: "Rabbi Zeira says, This scroll does not have anything in it concerned with impurity or purity nor what is forbidden and what is permitted. So why is it written? To teach us the greatness of the reward for acts of loving kindness." The story of Ruth is about how a Moabite woman named Ruth accompanies her mother-in-law, Noami. Even though Noami’s husband and children had died and she was left without any property, Ruth wanted to remain with her Naomi and convert to Judaism. The story of Ruth is about love as loyalty, faithfulness, committing yourself to others in a bond of responsibility and grace.

We read this on Shavuot because the main point of the Megilla is Hesed - meaning loving kindness in Hebrew, which is also the main point of the Torah. The word for Torah in Hebrew means “to teach”. This is because the Torah teaches us how to behave to others and become better people.

As we approach the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates G-d giving the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, we are reminded of our responsibility to study and live according to the Torah's teachings.   

Shabbat Shalom!

Eden, Grade 11