On the first day of the holiday of Shavuot, we read from the Torah: "In the third month following Israel's exodus from Egypt, on this day they arrived in the Sinai desert" (Exodus 19:1).
On the first day of the holiday of Shavuot, we read from the Torah: "In the third month following Israel's exodus from Egypt, on this day they arrived in the Sinai desert" (Exodus 19:1). Rashi, the fundamental commentator on the Torah, poses the obvious question: The verse should have said "on that day". What is the meaning of "on this day"? Rashi explains that the Torah is stating the necessity for us, as Jews a few years shy of the millenium, to perceive the Torah as if we received it on this day - today. Each and every day the Torah is once again given to us anew. But how can that perception become a reality? Practically speaking, it would seem impossible for us to receive a new Torah every day; the commandments were written thousands of years ago. The text itself never changes. How do we accomplish this "newness" with an ancient text?
If we are obligated to perceive the Torah as being "new" each and every day, it is not because the Torah has changed, but because we, as the practitioners of the Torah, have changed. We are not the same people we were yesterday. With each passing day, we grow from our experiences and make further strides from the person which we were the day before. As a Jew, it is imperative that each one of us soar on a constant crescendo of spiritual growth, casting away the alluring temptations to remain stagnant on our religious journey. Judaism is an eternal religion, posing new challenges to us on a daily basis.
Nowhere is this clearer than on the holiday of Shavuot, the festival which marks the Jewish people's receiving the Torah at the foot of Mt. Sinai. To receive the Torah is to admit that we are not whole, that we require something outside of ourselves. Once we receive it we can reach towards it and grow - grow further from the Jew we were yesterday to the Jew we will be tomorrow.
Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan and alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is editor of Torah from Dixie.
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