Thursday, May 17, 2018

Shavuot and the Resilience of our Torah

Sivan 5577

Shavuot and the Resilience of our Torah

Aharon Bejell

Head Librarian
Yeshivat Har Etzion Torah Library

The unique character of Shavuot, as Zman Matan Torateinu, expresses itself by connecting us to a most meaningful event, whose strength is found in its being a one-time event, which has never been repeated.
This is clearly pointed out by Moshe Rabbeinu, in Sefer Devarim, in his description of the resounding voice of G-d which was heard during the revelation at Har Sinai.
"קול גדול ולא יסף" (דברים ה:יח)

The straightforward usage of לא יסף means that the voice of G-d will not continue to resound as it did at that time and place (i.e: לא הוסיף).  This is how the Ibn Ezra explained it: "as it was for that one occasion only".

In contrast to the peshat, Unkelos and Rashi explain it as just the opposite, "לא פסק", meaning that it did not cease to resound: "as the voice of G-d is powerful and everlasting".

Even if we choose the second explanation, this does not mean that we actually perceive that the voice of G-d continues to resound and reveal itself until this very day, as it did at Sinai.  We must assume that the message here is that there is a dimension of G-d's voice which appears in each generation, to those who deeply engage themselves in learning the Torah, and it is as if they hear the echo of G-d's voice reaching their ears from Har Sinai.  Engagement with the Torah, motivated by the belief that Torah continues to be relevant in every generation, achieves this goal and provides us with the necessary tools to confront the new challenges which constantly meet us on our way.

Shavuot is not only a romantic attempt to re-experience the one-time event at Har Sinai, when G-d's voice resounded in our ancestors' ears.  This holiday is an opportunity for us to hear the voice of G-d vibrating from the Torah that we learn and teach, and in this way to relate to the Torah as a fresh and exciting expression of G-d's word, relevant as always, even to our generation.
As our sages put it:  "אשר אנכי מצוך היום"
"The words of the Torah should be perceived by you every day as something new, as if you first received them today at Sinai".

At Yeshivat Har Etzion we have succeeded in creating a Beit Midrash which strives for excellence in Talmud Torah, and the medium for that is intensive and deep learning.  The direction and guidance that we receive at the yeshiva demand from us to work hard in our Torah studies and let them empower us to move forward into the complexities and dynamics of modern life, as the bearers of the voice of G-d which we have revealed through our Torah.

The Grand Torah library, which resides in the foothills of the Beit Midrash, and was developed as part of the educational vision of the yeshiva, provides us with open access to a diverse Torah literature, the fruits of intense, multi-generational, Torah study.  In all areas of interest, the library's collection weaves tried and tested Torah literature with new expressions of Torah learning and scholarship, providing us with a clear view of the Torah's ongoing process of renewal in our generation.  At the same time, by giving the rare and antique collections a prominent place  amidst the vibrant collection of new works, we are able to sense the power of the spirit of our ancestors, who continued to devote themselves to Torah in every generation and in every place.  By experiencing our library one can clearly understand that what we are doing in our generation, to renew our bond with the Torah, is a continuation of what was done in every generation before us.

It was a deep appreciation of Torah which motivated previous generations to take advantage of the new printing technologies in order to spread Torah literature and to guarantee the existence of the Jewish people.  They understood that the resilience of Am Yisrael was dependent on the renewal and continued relevance of the Torah.  The spectrum of Torah literature which they left behind them is a combination of new editions of Torah classics and new works in all areas of Torah.  This was their way to provide the young generation with a fresh and intellectually challenging Torah, which confronted the needs of the changing times while retaining the devotion to the traditions of our fathers.  By doing so they paved the way before us, and in our generation we have also taken advantage of the internet and new information technologies in order to spread and renew our Torah.  It is exactly the same principle, the voice of G-d resounding in our ears as we learn, energizes us to continuously renew the Torah.

The next time you visit The Gush Torah Library, don't relate to it as just a storage room of books, and don't relate to the books as just simple paper and ink.  As you deeply engage yourself in Torah study, open your ears to hear G-d's resounding voice calling out to you "אנכי ה' א-לקיך".