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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bamidbar

I DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR….

Rabbi Stewart Weiss 5777 Iyar 28
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We begin the new sefer of Bamidbar this Shabbat, as well as celebrate Chag Shavuot Tuesday night-Wednesday. Bamidbar and Shavuot generally come together, and many have connected the two by noting that the Torah was
given in a desert (Midbar) rather than in a populated area, be it large city or village. Others have noted that the word "Midbar" contains the Hebrew word, "Daber," "speak (of it)," as another allusion to Shavuot, when we speak and study about the central Mitzvot of the Torah, as embodied in the Aseret HaDibrot, the 10 Commandments.

The other famous play on words is that "Shavuot" not only means "weeks" (the 7 weeks that we count from Pesach), but can also mean "oaths" or promises, indicating the solemn vow we made at Har Sinai to Hashem to accept, and forever follow, His holy Torah.

I would like to combine all these diverse thoughts into one "package" that defines our approach to Torah.

We are blessed with great sages, rabbis, teachers and Talmidei Chachamim throughout the ages who have elucidated for us the simple - and deeper – meaning of the Torah and its many Mitzvot. We would be foolish if we did
not avail ourselves of their deep wisdom, and take full advantage of their intense study that produced the insights that explain and enliven the Torah and Talmud. But at some point, we also have to exercise our own brains; we have to ponder, and process, the ancient yet eternal words of Hashem in order to "make them our own," to take personal possession of them so that they become a lasting and integral part of our life and legacy.

To best do this, we must take the Torah "into the desert." We need to isolate ourselves with it - free of distractions or diversions, like the desert itself - and see it with our own, fresh eyes. For there, right in front of us, is a gushing
fountain of Truth and Beauty, if only we take the time to want to discover it. Unlike any other book that has ever been written, the Torah is not frozen in time, nor bound to a copyright date; it is forever new and relevant. It speaks
("Daber") to us, no less than to the most distinguished scholar; it is ours for the taking.

Not by coincidence do we start a new Book the week of Shavuot. Each year, we have a chance to start again, to wipe away the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past and reclaim our heritage. That, I suggest, is the real
"Shavua-Oath" we take; not only to G-d, but to ourselves.
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