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I Was There!

05/24/2023 09:43:24 AM


I used to find myself arguing with my child about him inappropriately expressing big emotions, like throwing or screaming when overwhelmed or frustrated. I’d start at the beginning to mentally walk my child through what happened to help him imagine a different way to deal with his big feelings. I would name what he is feeling, and then what he did as a result of feeling that way. You were frustrated, so you threw the toy. And here is where the argument would start. He would say, “No! I didn’t throw the toy.” My natural response is to jump in and prove to my child that he did throw the toy. Maybe if I use a little bit of logic, I’ll be able to prove that I am right and indeed the toy was thrown! However, my child is a child, and irrational, and he sometimes would dig in his heels and insist that isn’t what happened. Now, I am in an argument about whether or not he threw a toy. But he indeed threw the toy! I was there! Aaggghhh!

The moments we experience with our own senses are the things we are most sure about in our lives. Surely our eyes can be tricked and our memories a little faulty, but I am more sure of something I experienced than something I only know about second-hand. Our tradition recognizes this, and thus we don’t just teach second-hand the teachings of the Torah, rather we read directly from the Torah itself multiple times a week. Moreover, we have someone go up and kiss the torah, and look at it, and follow along with the reader. After the Torah is read, this person/witness declares that God gave us a “true Torah” a Torat Emet. They saw it with their own eyes and personally attest to the truth of its words. But our tradition goes deeper. It’s not just that we physically have the Torah in front of us which contains truth, but rather this Torah is the same Torah that was given on Mount Sinai, on Shavuot. And we recreate the experience of revelation every time we take out the Torah so that we too can feel and experience this gift of God’s will and Divine teaching. We experience revelation, we recognize Divine truths, we attest that indeed this is what it is all about.

As I head into Shavuot, there is an inner-child within me that wonders about God and the nature of Torah. Is our tradition's claim about how it came about historical? Where did the Torah come from? But the truth lies not in the formation of the narrative. The truth lies in the content of its teachings. We experience these teachings each and every day as we live our lives using the Torah as our guide; improving our relationships with others, with ourselves, and with the world around us. We recognize the truth as we learn how to live our lives with holiness and purpose. We declare that we were there at Mount Sinai because we are there now – experiencing revelation each and every moment. And thus my inner-child can try to declare something that is not, but my experiences tell a different, more true, story. 

Chag Sameach

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784