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Welcome Back to School

Friday, 22 May, 2020 - 3:02 pm

 

Today millions of American children finish the school year and I salute our educators for meeting the challenge for seeing this semester through to its conclusion despite the rude disruptions we all experienced these past three months.

I find it ironic that the school year ends right around the time we celebrate the anniversary of when we all started going to school thousands of years ago.

When the Israelites were redeemed from Egyptian slavery on Pesach Moshe led them on a forty-four day journey to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah six days later on Shavuot. Our sages describe this journey as Moshe “bringing the children of Israel to Cheder (Hebrew/Yiddish expression for school) to learn Torah from their Melamed (Hebrew/Yiddish expression for teacher) G-d A-lmighty.”

Before entering school students need to be prepared with supplies, books and most importantly an openness to learning, but the preparation for entering G-d’s school at Sinai was of an entirely different caliber.

This coming Sunday will be Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the first day of the Jewish month Sivan, which marks 3,332 years since our ancestors arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Torah records this monumental event with a sentence which seems to be grammatically incorrect. “And Israel (singular) camped by the mountain.” There were millions of Jews camping at the mountain and the biblical expression implies that it was a camp of one?

Our sages explain that for the first time in history millions of Jews were on the same exact page intellectually and emotionally. They were of one heart and mind to receive the Torah. All of their differences disappeared as they united in the singular purpose of being worthy to become G-d’s ambassadors to the world through Torah and Mitzvot.

What’s the connection between Jewish unity and preparing to learn Torah from G-d? If you think about it, there is no way for the Creator’s divine, transcendent wisdom to be grasped by lowly mortals. It is a contradiction in terms! Nevertheless, G-d wished to override this fundamental division and allow for these polar opposites to unite.

The greatest spiritual heights we can achieve on our own are no preparation for the awesome revelation at Sinai. But achieving unity within our ranks even when our differences may seem so monumental is the most appropriate precursor to the “unity of opposites” that happened with the giving of the Torah.

Each year on Shavuot we receive the Torah anew and are once again welcome to join the academy of divine wisdom. Prepare for the “new school year” by finding ways to connect with others and nurturing a culture of mutual understanding and love. There is no better time to start than now, because the school bell will ring in under a week.

 

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