Things have been a bit busy around here, baby etc. but to kick off being back - I'm reprinting an article I wrote back in 2003 for the university paper in honor of Shavuot. Shavuot starts *tonight*, Tuesday, and ends Thursday evening. Here are a couple links for more information.
Shavuot with Aish.com
Shavuot with Chabad.org
June 8, 2003
3,300 years ago G-d decided to civilize the world that He had created, and gave the Torah to the Jews who He had just taken out of Egypt. This past weekend Jews around the world celebrated this holiday called Shavuot. Two major events happened that day way back then. The first as we know was the giving of the Torah, aka the Five Books of Moses, to the Jews. Second was the event of the Jews as individuals becoming a nation.
On the mountain of Sinai that day G-d put on an amazing sound and light show, surpassing any pyrotechnic party put on today and gave the Jews the Torah. There was no intermediary. G-d talked to all the people all at once and gave us the rules how to live a good life. We know ten of these rules from the famous 10 Commandments movie. What you will notice if you take a look at them is that the first five have to do with your relationship with G-d. I am the One who took you out of Egypt to be your G-d, don't make idols and have false gods, don't use G-ds name in vain, and keep the Sabbath holy. These are some of the rules to having a relationship with G-d Almighty (not Bruce).
If you look at numbers six to ten on those Commandments you see that they have to do with your relationship to your fellow wo/man. Honor your parents, don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't be a false witness, and don't be jealous of what your neighbors got. The second half of the Commandments are just as important as the first half. You cannot be a complete person if you only keep the first half of the Commandments dealing with you and G-d and do not treat other people well. On that same note, you cannot be a complete person if you keep G-d out of your life.
The second main event of that day was that the Jews became a Nation. Before that the Jews had been individuals with the same belief system, but at this point G-d formalized the relationship and created the Jewish People. The Torah is what binds the Jewish People together whether the Jew is observant, or not observant, white, black, or from any part of the world.
Now that we have spent so much time on the Jews receiving the Torah and becoming a nation, there are a couple more points to be made relating to the receiving of the Torah. The first is that Judaism does not believe that a person needs to be Jewish to go to Heaven. All a person needs to do is follow 7 rules called the Noahide Laws, since everyone is a descendent of Noah. They are: don't murder, don't steal, don't worship false gods, don't be sexually immoral, don't eat a limb of an animal before it is killed, don't curse G-d, and set up a system of justice.
So now that it is 3300 years later what can be learned from all of this? There are two main points to keep in mind. The first is to be a complete person we need to include G-d in our lives and be involved in making other peoples lives better. It cannot be one or the other.
The second point comes from the idea that a person on their own can do great things. When G-d took the Jews out of Egypt and made them a nation, He was saying that it was more important to work as a group. As a group and working together even greater things can be accomplished.
Connect yourself with a group with a goal worth reaching. Reach farther that you could have as an individual. Be great.