Friend and Teacher

I learned something recently, from a unlikely source.

Jewish tradition teaches that if you find yourself learning a shtickel (a little bit) of Torah from someone, then he is your teacher, with all the perks that brings. Like – I’m obliged to honor him, to refrain from interrupting him in the middle of a sentence, to avoid spilling hot soup on him, etc.

I learned that being Jewish, trying to follow the Torah, and respecting the world around you is supposed to be – fun. Yeah, you got it – FUN.

It is quite easy to swerve off the path and feel all heavy and weighty and dragged down. Like someone is trying to shove you around. And I don’t like being shoved around – do you?

Shavuot is tomorrow’s holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah some 3,324 years ago (give or take a few hours).

The whole idea of Shavuot is that the Jewish nation, having checked out of the Land of Egypt just 49 days before – elected, as one nation and with one voice, to accept the Torah upon itself. Sight unseen, and with great joy.

There is an old traditional story that relates:


God went to the nations of the world to see if they would accept his Torah. First, he went to the nation whose ancestor was Ishmael, Abraham’s first son.

“Will you receive my Torah and keep its commandments?” God asked them.

“What’s written in it?” they answered, suspiciously.

“Do not steal”, said God.

“Sorry, Bub – we were BORN to steal. Not for us.”

So God tried the nation called Edom, descended from Jacob’s twin brother Esau.

“Will you receive my Torah and keep its commandments?”

What’s written in it?”

“Do not murder”.

“Ummmm, well – it’s not for us. We are the world experts in murder. Wait ’til you see what we are planning to do to the Jews in Europe someday.”

God tried everybody. Everybody had an excuse. Finally went to the Children of Israel. “Will you receive my Torah and keep its commandments?” he asked them, as they were assembled at Mt. Sinai.

Without hesitation, the entire nation answered with one voice: “We will do; and we will hear!”


So you see – the whole idea of this holiday is to celebrate.

After an absence of 2,000 years, we are back in our native land, and the Torah is beckoning us. Are we prepared to listen?


About the Author
Yisrael Rosenberg is a former New Englander who made aliyah 30 years ago. He lives with his wife and four children in Jerusalem.