Shavuot is about G GIVING Torah to the Jewish people. It is not about us RECEIVING Torah. We receive the gift of Torah when and in the manner we are prepared to do so. We distill, on the holiday of Shavuot, the gift and challenge of Torah into the symbolism of “10 commandments”.
On Shavuot I like to look at and play among the ten. Tradition teaches us that the essence of Torah is found in those ten statements. What lessons can I glean from this sacred ‘table of contents of the 613 Mitzvot of Torah.
The First: “I am Adonai, your G.”
Is this a commandment, or a statement of fact? It seems to be the preamble to the rest of the ten statements. If I accept this first statement, then the rest seem to fall into place.
If I accept that there is, for us, G. then it follows that “there shall be no other gods before Me.”
Judaism is not about blind faith. Judaism encourages us to look at the world around us in awe and wonder. And that vision crystalizes with the awareness that creation is the clothing of the Creator. Our awe grows, intensifying from creation to Creator. And I expand my inner self into that recognition that “I am Adonai, your G.”
The first of these expressions flows into the next: “You will have no other gods instead of Me!” It also speaks to the order of creation. Humanity is the last of physical creations, the last physical realm created on the last day of physical creation and as a prelude to the purely spiritual creation that is Shabbat. Bnay Adam was created just before and in conjunction with Shabbat, so that we would be part of the spiritual awareness that is the soul of creation. From awe grows the daily practice of conscious awareness.
The third of the ten speaks to the discipline of awareness. Our sacred connection with the Holy One of Being, which can also be called the Wholly One of Being, requires that I, even in my speech, do not allow that which is sacred to become commonplace, mundane.
Carrying the theme of awe and awareness into the fourth of these Ten Commandments, I am reminded of the day of spiritual creation. I am directed to remember and guard the memory and the sanctity of all creation, physical and spiritual.
The fifth of the Ten Commandments brings together the physical and the spiritual by means of the connection of family. Man and woman become partners in creation as they enter the world of parenthood. We, their children, in grateful awareness honor our parents’ role in creation. In honoring that microcosm of creation we bring to the light the sanctity of awareness, which is awe.
The next four of the ten speak to the sanctity of our relationships in community, obvious, straightforward and direct. No murder: No breaking the sanctity pairing contracts: No stealing.
The ninth of ten calls out to us: “Words have power!” The phrase: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is nonsense. I have been hurt by the words of others and so has every other human being. Our sense of awareness includes self-awareness and the awareness of the value of others. When we lose that awareness, we lose our awe for G.
The last of the ten, speaks to our desires, our wants. There is nothing wrong in wanting. Desire is not evil or wrong, it is not a weakness… so long as it is in its place. I may want to live in a nice house, but I must not want your house. It seems so simple but this, the last of ten points to that which pulls us away from sacred awareness, from the awe for the holy.
And so on Shavuot we repeat the ten, but seek a depth beyond ten, beyond even 613. On Shavuot we sense the offering from the Holy One of Being. And if we have acquired some amount of wisdom, through this tradition, we, with a sense of awe, become aware of the Wholly Oneness of Being.