Who introduced the concept of God

The gift of the Torah - a universal value

Shavuoth, the festival of weeks

This year, on May 21st, the Jewish people all over the world will celebrate “Shavuoth”, the festival of weeks. It is one of the three holidays on which all the people of Israel were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. Deuteronomy 16, 9-12: "You are to count seven weeks and start with it when you first put the sickle on the stalks and you are to keep the feast of the week to the Lord your God (on the fiftieth day) ..." ('weeks' means in Hebrew 'Shavuoth') In the Torah this holiday is also given other names, such as "Feast of the Harvest" (Exodus 23:16) and "Day of the firstfruits" (Numbers 28:26). The last two names testify to the agricultural background of this festival, which during the period of the second temple (from the end of the 5th century BC to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD) determined its character. The whole people made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and brought the first harvest with them as a gift to the priests of the temple. In Christianity, which has adopted this holiday - but with different meanings of its own - it was called “Pentecoste” in both Greek and English, with us “Pentecost”, the fiftieth day. We find in the New Testament in Acts 2: 1 that the apostles and also the first Christian community, who were primarily Jews, celebrated the feast of Weeks with the background of their specific faith in Jesus, which, according to them, celebrated the fiftieth day after the resurrection Jesus was. For me, on this major holiday, it is more important to focus on its additional meaning, a meaning not mentioned at all in the Torah - but its echo reverberates and will reverberate forever. A profoundly meaningful change was made by our sages for this day when they changed it from a mainly agricultural holiday to the day of the dedication of the Torah. According to the calculations of our scholars, on that day Moses received the Torah from the hands of God on Mount Sinai. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time this additional, new meaning was introduced, but most likely it was in the time of the Second Temple. As long as the temple existed, the meaning of the festival of weeks was more agricultural; After the destruction of the temple and the exit into exile, the handing over of the Torah to the people of Israel became extremely important. In Jewish tradition, the presentation of the Torah means the acceptance of the two tablets that Moses received from the hands of God, on which the Ten Commandments were engraved; they are the culmination and central theme of our Torah. The entire Torah is centered around, explaining, and serving the Ten Commandments. The last five commandments are well known in the ancient world - they deal with rules and laws between man and his neighbor, without which no human society can exist: prohibition of murder, fornication, stealing, giving false testimony, desire for the possession of your neighbor . But today I want to focus on the fundamental renewals in the first commandments: first, the absolutely transcendent concept of God; the God of Israel stands above and outside nature. And all of nature, in heaven, on earth and under the sea, is the result of his creation, which God created according to his will. This explains a practical renewal: one should not describe God, make no picture, no statues or any other representation of him that is similar to anything in nature, as well as the prohibition to mention the name of God uselessly. Second: God is one and there is no second or other. He was, he is and he will be, first, above all, and last. This is the basis of monotheistic belief, belief in the one and only God - this is the belief of Israel. Third, the subject of Shabbat (Saturday) in the Ten Commandments is an important renewal. The name Shabbat and the association with a certain day were probably known in the ancient East, perhaps even before the people of Israel came into being. But in Israel the Ten Commandments gave the Shabbat a unique new meaning. The Shabbat is a holiday of rest and relaxation for all those who do work and achieve something - for everyone and all animals. Because of these universal renewals, the festival of Weeks, Shavuoth, as the holiday of the handover of the Torah, is not only a Jewish-Israeli festival, but has a very deep meaning for all religions and peoples.

Amnon Orbach