Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A good Shavuot lesson for modern-day Israel

Chag sameach!
Today is the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
The Feast of Weeks is also called the Time of the Giving of the Torah, the Festival of the First Fruits, and the [wheat] Harvest Festival. 
Shavuot commemorates the people's pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bring first crops to the Temple. 
Today the Ten Commandments were  read in synagogues and also the Book of Ruth, telling the story of Ruth the Moabitess who followed Naomi and became Jewish.
 On Shavuot it is the tradition to eat dairy foods, wear white, and study Torah throughout the night.

More posts about it under my labels "Shavuot"  and "Torah."

I learned something nice today, thanks to the Velveteen Rabbi.

Exodus 19:1-2 states that
1 In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 
2 And when they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mount. 
That last part, in Hebrew,  is  וַיִּחַן-שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל, נֶגֶד הָהָר
Suddenly the Torah is using a singular verb to say that we (plural) camped in front of the mountain.

 Rashi understands it to mean that the Israelites camped there as a single entity, with one heart and one purpose.

Or as Velveteen Rabbi says in her blog, "On this day, long long ago, despite all of our frustrations and our differences, we were together at the mountain as one. We were one people, one heart, one community. And in that state of oneness, we entered into relationship with God. In that state of oneness, we received revelation. We experienced divinity. We experienced the theophany . . . "

And the following verse says, "And Moshe ascended to Heaven and God called to him from the mountain. . . ."
 The 15th century Italian commentator Rabbi Sforno explains that  "This teaches us that Yisrael set themselves to the task of preparing the camp, and Moshe ascended to prepare himself for his approaching prophecy."

As I find at a "Chassidus" website

"Rabbi Chayim Shmuelevitz, the former Rosh Yeshiva of the famous Mir Yeshiva of Poland and then later Jerusalem, once pointed out the seemingly contrary intent of the comments of the Sforno:

 How is it possible to describe the activities of Moshe and the people in one breath?! Moshe Rabbenu is preparing for the world's greatest revelation, and the people are digging latrines and pounding in tent pegs?

 He answers that when they pitched camp, each one was concerned not with his own place, rather he took the time to worry about his neighbor; was his camp in order, did he need some help.
Because they were doing chesed [~ acts of kindness] one with the other, they showed that they were indeed a nation that was fit to receive the Torah.
Moshe's going up was made possible by the Nation's pitching camp."


Nadege said...

Chag Sameach Dina!
(Do you know if GMO seeds and food is a big deal in Israel, like it is in the US?).

VP said...

Velveteen Rabbi is a she?

Dina said...

VP, yes, in the USA it's OK. Check out her blog, it is very interesting.

Dina said...

Nadege, I think it's less of a big deal than in America. No law here to label GMOs in the supermarket.
I have to look into it more.
Meanwhile I found this that may interest you:

"religion also plays a part in this game of gene splicing and cross pollination. In a religious state like Israel, the issue is debated regularly and seriously.

Jewish law dictates which foods can or cannot be eaten and GMOs have created a quandary. Does a genetically modified tomato, for example, containing a microscopic cell from a pig, render it unfit to eat? Or, does a farm-raised salmon carrying a gene from an eel that promotes faster growth make it un-kosher?

Jewish law warns against mixing two unlike species. A farm-raised salmon carrying the gene from an eel violates the tenets of Kashrut, Jewish dietary laws. Jews can only eat an aquatic creature with fins and scales. Anything else is considered an abomination.

Cross-bred seeds are also forbidden. Linen whose origins came from gene splicing should not be worn. The same holds true for wool from an animal that has been genetically changed."


Spiderdama said...

Amazing history in this book! From cover to cover
Chag sameach!

Nadege said...

Thank you very much for your answer Dina! I am always thinking about the dangers of GMOs but you are right, it is also an ethical... quandary.

Sara said...

Thanks for the Velveteen Rabbi link; I enjoyed my visit just now, especially the post about morning prayers.

You found the perfect photo for your post today. It's a bit late in Israel, but Chag Sameach from the West Coast!