Tonight is Shavuot, and at Beth Sholom we will commemorate the giving of the Torah with a night of Torah teachings leading to a sunrise service. (For those who don't wish to stay up all night there is a 9 a.m. Shavuot service.)
My teaching slot is at 1:30 a.m. I'm not sure how many will be there but I am prepared. My teaching will center around one of my favorite group of verses in the Torah--Deuteronomy 30:11 - 14, from the parsha Nitzavim:
"Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, 'Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it."From the moment I read those words, they touched me. For me it defines spiritual practice as something that comes from within, something that you observe inside yourself, into your soul, that gives you a way to live fully in the world. Obviously, I am not the only one touched by these words, feeling this meaning. As a Shavuot gift to you, here is a poem I will share with my fellow students this evening:
Barbara D. Holender
Even when you hold it in your arms,
you have not grasped it.
Wrapped and turned it upon itself
the scroll says, Not yet.
Even when you take them into your eyes,
you have not seen them; elegant
in their crowns the letter stand aloof.
Even when you taste them in your mouth
and roll them on your tongue
or bite the sharp unyielding strokes
they say, Not yet.
And when the sounds pour from your throat
and reach deep into your lungs for breath,
even then the words say, Not quite.
But when your heart knows its own hunger
and your mind is seized and shaken,
and in the narrow space between the lines
your soul builds its nest,
Now, says Torah, now
you begin to understand.