As we mark the Festival of Shavuot, we celebrate our ancestors standing at Mt. Sinai and entering into the Brit, the covenant with God.
As you may recall, when our ancestors first left Egypt they were free but did not yet understand what it meant to be a covenanted community. Only at at Mt. Sinai, only at the moment of revelation at Mt. Sinai, did they begin to understand their responsibilities to one another and to God. That understanding has waxed and waned over time. But, throughout our history the message has been clear, Judaism depends upon each of us understanding its importance AND appreciating the fundamental value of community as a cornerstone of what it means to be Jewish. As the saying goes, “One Jew is no Jew.”
There is, however, another dimension to the moment when our ancestors stood together to receive the Torah. It is captured in Deuteronomy 29:14-15 which states,
I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before our God יהוה and with those who are not with us here this day.
From the very beginning, our tradition understood that our values and our commitments can only remain relevant when each generation sees itself as part of the ancient covenant.
Last Friday night we celebrated our graduating High School Seniors during Shabbat services. Each of these remarkable teens took their turn expressing their commitment to Judaism and the Jewish community. Their words were so thoughtful, so insightful and so heartfelt that I could not imagine celebrating Shavuot this year without sharing them with all of you.
I urge you to take a few minutes to listen to the next generation of Jewish leaders. I suspect that you, like me, will feel confident that the future of the ancient covenant is in good hands.
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Daniel Cohen