Sharing the Gift of Torah
Shavuot reminds me why I’m grateful for having the Torah in my life.
"Just give them the wrong answers," my lab partner whispered to me in the middle of a long, tedious experiment. It was my junior year in college, and the organic chemistry class was grueling. It was such a competitive environment that my lab partner, who had always seemed like a nice enough guy, wanted me to lie to the group beside us.
"No way, I'm not giving them the wrong answers. We should help them."
He looked at me like I had landed from another planet. "Help them? Why? Do you want to be nice or do you want to be successful?"
I put down my notebook, looked him straight in the eyes and replied, "I want both."
I thought about that moment recently as I was catching up with a friend of mine whose life has taken such a different path from mine. She was feeling lost and confused in a world that seems to blur the lines of morality more each day. Like my experience in college, it is hard today to believe that we can be kind and still be ambitious, that we can be truthful and still be successful, that we can fight for justice while still being compassionate.
We need to know that we can. It is difficult to remember that we are doing the right thing even when it seems like everyone else is doing something else.
I have the Torah to thank for giving me that clarity, that wisdom, that confidence to know that I can be both kind and successful. That I gained so much more by telling the truth than what I would have lost.
With Shavuot around the corner, I’ve been thinking how grateful I am for having the Torah in my life. The Torah teaches me about my ancestors and how to follow in their ways. It shows me how to keep trying every time I want to give up. It gives me the strength to face my own weaknesses. It has shown me what to look for in a spouse and gives me guidelines on how to create light in my home and to nurture my children with softness and warmth. Torah gives me the peace of Shabbos that crowns my week and renews my energy, and the wisdom to know when to step back and when to move forward.
Torah gives me the clarity to understand right from wrong, and suffuses my life with dignity. It gives me the courage to stretch, to change, to grow and has implanted in me the drive to look at the world with appreciation and gratitude, to recognize each day that the Almighty gives me everything I need. The Torah gives me the faith that pulls me through the hardest of times and the wisdom to see that this world is not all that there is. It infuses meaning, purpose and transcendence into my life. It has given me the privilege of being part of the Jewish people. Most of all, Torah enables me to find the truth within me and to search for it in the world around me.
On Shavuot, we stand at Mount Sinai again and receive the gift of God’s wisdom, the opportunity to tap into His infinite knowledge. We celebrate the sweetness of the Torah’s presence in our lives, staying up all night and learning its secrets. And on Shavuot we remind ourselves how fortunate we are as a nation to have this source of truth given to us, and how crucial it is that each of us, in our own way, uses it to light up the world around us. Because, as I learned long ago, when you have answers, the right thing to do is to turn to the person beside you and share what you know.