Tonight starts the holy holiday of Shavuot where we celebrate the giving of the Torah. No act has shaped our destiny more than when the Jews received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. This was a time of mass revelation where we were given the instructional manual for living. The Almighty codified for us how to bring morality and ethics to the world. No longer could man kill or steal and claim no knowledge of the calamity those actions would wrought. There was a new definition of goodness in the world.
The acceptance by the Jews of this new code of ethics also started our journey as a nationalistic drive to be a “Light unto the Nations.” In many ways this painted a target on our back as the Jews set out to demonstrate to the world that living a moral life was the new high standard to emulate and replicate. In essence, no one likes being told what to do. As a result, historically, so many have turned to jealousy and hatred towards the Jewish people, rather than changing their lifestyle towards goodness.
Even today we witness the beauty of Israel where the highest standards of morality and ethics are observed. Still, the world singles us out for a constant barrage of scorn and ridicule. We must shut out these painful diatribes and focus on passionately pursuing our faith. There is a custom to stay up all night tonight reviewing and studying the Almighty’s wisdom. I highly recommend this act because simply by picking up a Jewish book, you will be part of a worldwide movement towards living a spiritual life.
When asked what is one of the highlights of my time at Aish, I always point to the visit we received a few years ago from then US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin. Aish hosted a meeting between the Secretary and Israeli high tech firms. We were told explicitly that the Secretary’s time was extremely limited and he needed to go straight into the meeting upon arrival.
When he entered the fifth floor in the Dan Family Aish World Center, he spotted the view from the Diener Terrace. He walked directly outside and started taking pictures. Rabbi Etiel Goldwicht and I were with him and he began asking every question imaginable about the Temple, specifically wanting to know the differences between the first and second Temples. We spoke about the Temples for 20 minutes, much to the chagrin of his staff. Finally they pried him away to go to the meeting.
What a thrill it was to stand on the Diener Terrace and talk Torah with the financial leader of the free world. Why did he make all those uber important company CEO’s wait? Because in a Jew’s heart there is always a yearning for Jewish knowledge. We feel the tug to our hearts from the Almighty. Pulling us closer to Him. My friends, follow that tug. Find a book on any topic in Judaism and make it your own. Read it. Study it. Live it. Find a partner to discuss it with. Share the wisdom with your family and friends. Over 3000 years ago we received a beautiful diamond from the Almighty. Take it, polish it, own it and share it.
I want to close by sharing with you the Aish approach to Jewish wisdom. This is a time tested method that has ensured that our Torah has been conveyed in the best way possible. It is the PIE methodology. Every class you hear at Aish must be Passionately delivered. Inspirational to the listener. Educational in its content. With these three approaches to conveying and studying Jewish wisdom, excitement is guaranteed. May the Almighty bless all of you with a holiday filled with joy and laughter.