Tonight is the beginning of Shavuot (Weeks) and the end of the counting of the Omer. We have counted every day from the first day of Passover until the day before Shavuot. This period of time is 7 weeks or 49 days. It signifies the 49 days it took the emancipated Hebrews to get to Sinai for the receipt of the Torah, represented by the Ten Words that were written in stone. We now call these Ten Words the Ten Commandments. The rest of Torah was written on animal parchment over a period of time in the desert, according to Orthodox belief. Archeologists believe Torah was put on parchment during the Babylonian exile, after the destruction of the First Temple, approximately 600 -515BCE. It was, at that time when the current Hebrew script and scribes were developed and the study of Torah began to take the place some of the rituals reserved for the Temple. It wasn't until the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) that the sacrifices and rituals surrounding the Temple were postponed until the building of a third Temple, which has not happened, to date.
Shavuot also marks the time of the late harvest in Jerusalem and is one of three major festivals in Judaism. It's purpose is to give thanks for the Torah and the harvest and to have a period of intense study.
But the story of Shavuot, as told in the Talmud, is about the beginning of a nation of laws, it tells the story of the human resistance to obeying an authority, the fear of accepting responsibility for our actions and a kind of resignation with which the Hebrew people accepted a great responsibility - The Law of God.
By the time God offered The Law to the Hebrews, it had been offered to all of the other nations of the world, who had rejected it, out-of-hand. The Hebrews didn't want it either, to tell you the truth. God had to use a little technicolor persuasion.
But eventually, the people came to understand the message God was trying to send.
They would understand the significance of The Law and its Holiness, by following the law. It's a process and a partnership with God. Doing without understand why is following a commandment. The understanding will come in the doing.
Na'aseh v'nishma - We will do and we will hear (understand) is what the Hebrews said. And that is how the Hebrew people became the chosen people...by choosing.
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