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Why do we study on Shavuot?

Sometimes we forget the obvious questions. For example, why a night of learning is "celebrated" with Shavuot. If I ask my children, learning - for example, in school is not their favorite activity. For many of us, learning is rather tiring and exhausting. Not for everyone, but celebrating something with learning still occurs to only a few.

Of course, our tradition gives us different answers to this question as well. For example, in a world of hard living conditions and hard work, reading, learning, studying and discussing was a welcome change. Especially when it was interrupted by singing and dancing. This should certainly not be forgotten. The custom is known since the late Middle Ages, but is said to have occurred sporadically even before.

Sugar-sweet and very comprehensible is also the Midrash, after we overslept on the day of the delivery of the Torah at Mount Sinai (it was already the repetition) and Moshe had to wake us up. So that something so embarrassing does not happen to us again, we stay awake and deal already with the topic of the coming day. Better safe than sorry.

Another reason is that the reading on Passover we were physically liberated and 50 days later on Shavuot the soul or spiritual liberation makes a lot of sense for many people. This spiritual liberation is coupled with the reception of the Torah from the Eternal from the hands of Moses. It lies not only in its content and meaning but also in its capacity as a covenant with the Eternal, which we have freely accepted - without even reading the fine print. In many respects this is an event that can hardly be believed. What god has already appeared to his people in the visible world and anyway - what goddess has chosen his own people? Which god even makes the effort twice, because the first time the people and the prophet lose patience with each other? Which goddess knows her people so well that she, as it were, in prescient wisdom, composes a code of law that is covenantal and at the same time contains the teaching on how we can shape our lives? And last but not least: What people enthusiastically say yes to a set of rules that they don't even know yet? Has this people lost its mind? Was it about religious delusion? Was it a matter of false hopes for a quick end to the wilderness wanderings?

We cannot answer all this. Religious delusion is probably out of the question in view of the durability of the handed over teaching in the world. The questions we can try to answer are those about the content of the teaching and its meaning for our life. For we have received not only the Torah, but also the Talmud, Mishnah and all the other texts. There is the notion that the entire written and oral works and all its explanations, interpretations and elucidations were delivered at Sinai, and in the past I used to think this was an intellectual ploy to make the meaning of the oral teachings and later works equal to the authority of the Torah. I thought it was to avoid - or better suppress - discussions about texts written by humans. Today I sometimes think that the Torah, like all texts, finds its way into living life only in its interpretation, and its interpretation is not only an important but also a defining component of its BE interpretation. If it is so, then in the text the interpretation is already thought and with it also the many Midraschim, interpretations, explanations and "implementing regulations" which were put to the Torah in the centuries to the side. In this respect one can also say that they were handed over with the Torah.

Like every law or every teaching, the Torah can only survive if it remains alive. But it remains alive only if it penetrates into our respective lives through interpretation. Each generation has different realities, challenges and perspectives from which it interprets the texts and applies their contents to current life. And this means that each generation has to make this interpretation anew and fresh, relying also on the previous work of the ancestors and at the same time asking the questions of our time. Before the interpretation, however, there is the reading and the study. Only those who know the texts, their structure, their stories and history, their mission, their concern, their language - only they can interpret them and thus bring them to life.

I wish for our generation that we will pass this test

and for tonight that we will walk together a small step of this path of a pleasant duty.

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