Torah is the life blood of the Jewish people. Our enemies have always known that when we Jews stop learning Torah, our assimilation is inevitable. Without knowledge there is no commitment. One cannot love what he does not know. A person cannot do or understand what he has never learned.
-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly for Shavuot”
In the past, I’ve written quite a bit on the Festival of Shavuot such as Bamidbar and Shavuot: Souls in the Desert and What Should Shavuot Mean to Me. This holiday commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Children of Israel at Sinai. Shavuot is also closely associated with the Pentecost event as recorded in Acts 2:1-13.
Of late, I have distanced myself from more formal expressions of Messianic Judaism, and so I decided to revisit the question “What should Shavuot mean to me?” I reviewed my previous comments on the matter. Things have changed even more since then.
In his commentary, Rabbi Packouz continued:
A Jew is commanded to learn Torah day and night and to teach it to his children. If a Jew wants his family to be Jewish and his children to marry other Jews, then he must integrate a Torah study program into his life and implement the teachings into his home and his being. One can tell his children anything, but only if they see their parents learning and doing mitzvot, will they inherit the love for being Jewish. Remember: a parent only owes his child three things — example, example, example.
Well, that’s for a Jew. The Torah wasn’t given to the nations at Sinai and we didn’t inherit it either at Acts 2 or Acts 15. We have, by inference, received the promise of the Holy Spirit and Acts 10 does record non-Jews receiving such a Spirit, so the Pentecost event should have some significance for us.
But there’s a disconnect between people of the nations receiving the Spirit and other of the New Covenant blessings solely by the grace and mercy of God, and the Children of Israel receiving the Torah as the conditions of the Sinai Covenant.
So we non-Jewish disciples of our Rav should be cautious as to how much of Shavuot we claim, since it doesn’t belong to us. While I enjoy reading Rabbi Packouz and the other Aish rabbis, I’m distinctly aware that they are writing solely for a Jewish audience. It’s just that they can’t block any non-Jew who happens to visit their site.
As I was reading R. Packouz, a pop-up appeared inviting me to chat with an Aish.com Rabbi. I don’t know what I’d say and I’m sure he’d be in the same bind, hence I minimized the window.
I did come across another Aish article written by Rabbi Moshe Greene called The Yiddish Speaking Latino Cop. I won’t quote from it, but I encourage you to read it, as the article describes how a non-Jewish retired police officer named Donny became so close to a great chassidic leader, that he “picked up” Yiddish, and perhaps much more.
Ultimately, the story is about encouraging Jewish unity, not the role of a non-Jew in that process. That said, it was Donny who asked Rabbi Greene a pointed question that resulted in his writing about the encounter for Shavuot.
But unlike Donny, we might not find ourselves in a unique position to have those insights and experiences that might actually cause a Rabbi to think in a new direction. However, as R. Greene mentioned (though regarding only Jews), we all can participate in the process of Tikkun Olam, or making the world a better place.
Perhaps for the Gentile, Shavuot is less about the Torah, the Sinai Covenant, the Festival, and the traditions, than it is a reminder that as possessors of the Spirit of God and in the name of our Rav, we too can do our part to make the world just a little bit better.
In that, there are no limits.
4 thoughts on “Shavuot and the Christian Revisited”
How can you practice a proper tikkun olam without Torah?
It just means “repairing the world.” The whole idea, loosely put, is to make the world just a little bit better. There are tons of ways to do that. Pick up a piece of litter you didn’t throw on the ground. Hold the door open for someone with their hands full, smile at someone. The essence of the Torah tells us how to do Tikkun Olam, but if you know how to do good, doing any good at all helps repair the world.
We had dinner last night with some friends who joined a Mennonite church about a year ago. The dresses, headcoverings and beard clashed with our jeans and sweatshirts. Yet it was beautiful. Nobody felt uncomfortable or “less than” or “better than.” We were different but together.
That’s what I think of when I read your words today. As we Jewish and Gentile believers follow the Lord, we are different but together, and this is good.
Ideally, you are correct, Marie. When it works, it works well.