by Cantor Emma Lutz
This week, we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot, when we recall God’s giving of the gift of Torah at Mount Sinai. In Exodus, we read: “And God said to Moses, ‘Go unto the people and sanctify them today and tomorrow, for on the third day God will come down in sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai” (Exodus 19:10-11). The moment of revelation is shared by every single Jew alive then and—the rabbis later posited—by every Jew who ever was or ever will be: you, me, our ancestors, our children and our children’s children, and our partner or bashert.
There is something infinitely hopeful about this radical inclusivity, the idea that every person born Jewish or who chose Judaism stood all together at this mystical and miraculous moment in our shared history. And if indeed every single one of us stood at Sinai, then this also includes those who may feel marginalized even inside our diverse Jewish tribe: the Jew who struggles with his/her faith; the Jew who deeply loves but challenges the policies of the State of Israel; the Jew-by-choice who still sometimes feels like an outsider; the Jew who, as a woman, cannot safely wear a tallis at the Western Wall; LGBTQ+ Jews; Jews of every color and background who seek connection amongst the greater Jewish family. Our similarities far outweigh our differences, and yet our differences make our community so much more radiant, unique, intriguing, accessible. This Shavuot, may we see each other as if we stood shoulder to shoulder at Sinai to accept and to earn God’s Torah, this gift to our people.
Shavuot is, famously, zman matan Torateinu, the time that we are given the Torah, not actually the time we receive it. Whether we receive it, how we receive it, what we do with it–all of that is up to us. God offers Torah up to us all equally at Sinai, and we each must decide, with full freedom, whether or how we will pursue its teachings throughout our lives. May we celebrate Shavuot with our Wise core values of generosity, creativity, and inclusivity—values so deeply embedded in our sacred Torah—at the forefront of our hearts, rejoicing in the strength of our diverse and connected community.