Saturday night, May 19, the Jewish community will usher in the holiday of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks. 3,330 years ago, atop of Mount Sinai, God descended in all His glory, gifted us with the Ten Commandments and through Moses, the greatest Prophet of all time, taught us the entirety of The Five Books.
This epic moment was when heaven and earth kissed, the divide between the physical and spiritual was breached, and each of us was given the opportunity to impart holiness into a, seemingly, unholy and extremely mundane world. The Sinai revelation empowered us to bond with our Creator, a relationship that supersedes our personal failures, our frequent insecurities and our hide-behind-our-social-media-posts human fragility.
Yet, as we celebrate this revelation, it’s vital that we remember a universal truth: G-d created us in His image; we don’t get to create Him in ours. While Moses ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, the Bible; more importantly, God descended to us, and like a beloved parent who knows what’s best for their child, gave us a detailed instruction manual for how we can live a meaningful life. It wasn’t multiple-choice, where God asked us what we thought spirituality meant. There wasn’t a moment where God said, “I’d love to hear your opinion about what morality and ethics should look like and whether those principals should change with time”. God is not in public relations and He doesn’t do internal polling to sway with public opinion. His message doesn’t change to impress the masses, rather it behooves us to change because of His message.
There are days that I too wish that He would reach out to me and say “Chaim, go ahead and change things up a bit to match the 21st century societal inventions”, but He didn’t and the Sinaitic values remain the anchor of Jewish life and for all those seeking a path to the Almighty. I admit, following all of God’s 613 commandments 24/7 is not always easy, but not a day passes that I’m not grateful for the gift that keeps giving, the ancient wisdom for modern times.
With extraordinary foresight, my mentor The Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed memory (1902-1994) asked that men, women “and children” attend Synagogue on Shavuot and listen closely as the Ten Commandments are read from the Book of Exodus, as it reminds us that God gave commandments, not suggestions, and He is the only authority on morality.
No need to make up the recipe ourselves; God already gave us the ingredients!
Rabbi Chaim Bruk is executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bozeman.