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D'var Torah by Dr. Kalman Stein, Head of School

Dr. Kalman Stein, Head of School

Dear Hebrew Academy Community: 

This is my last Dvar Torah as Head of School of Hebrew Academy. During the past two years I have been very careful not to use the same set of ideas more than once. For my last message, however, I have decided to repeat the one I wrote for last year’s pre-Shavuot, Parashat BaMidbar, Happenings virtually verbatim because I think it’s so important and so speaks to what Hebrew Academy is and should be all about.  

The basic source for exactly which portion of the Torah we read each week is Gemara Megillah. The Gemara makes it very clear that Parashat BeChukotai is to be read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. But quite surprisingly, because we do not often simply ignore the instruction of the Gemara, the practice amongst all Jewish communities for centuries has been to read BaMidbar on the Shabbat before Shavuot, as we will do tomorrow.

I have heard—but not seen in writing—in the name of Rav Soloveitchik zts’l that the key connection withShavuot is to be found in the last three Pesukim of the Haftarah of BaMidbar. The three verses which are well-known to any Jewish male who recites them as he winds his Tefillin around his finger are: וארשתיך לי לעולם,  וארשתיך לי בצדק ובמשפט ובחסד וברחמים  and   ‘וארשתיך לי באמונה וידעת את ה—I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, with lovingkindness and compassion; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness and you will know the Lord.

The act of giving and receiving the Torah was the betrothal of the Jewish People to God. In fact, this reenacted in many Sephardic congregations in which a Ketubah Le-Shavuot—a marriage contract for Shavuot--is read as a symbolic betrothal of God and His people Israel just before the morning’s Torah reading on Shavuot morning. There are various versions of such Piyyutim but all of them are similar in terminology to either the traditional Tenai’m or Ketubah which are included in every wedding ceremony.

These three Pesukim remind us that our national and personal relationship with God should be a romantic one.  I once heard Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z’l say that the best way to make sure that our children love Judaism is to show them how much we love Judaism. We as parents and educators must demonstrate to our children that remaining faithful to our marriage vows with God is a labor of love.

Shabbat Shalom & Chag Samai’ach,

Dr. Kalman Stein
Head of School  

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