Posted by: Subway Conductor | September 21, 2008

September 2008

From Rabbi Michael Arsers:

Why was the Torah given to the Jewish People in the middle of the desert? I think that if I had written the Torah, I would have set the revelation in a place like Jerusalem. After all, Jerusalem is the holiest place on Earth, the site of the future Temple. You would think the giving of the Torah should have taken place in Israel, not in the wilderness. But, the Torah is giving us a very powerful message.

The wilderness is an empty place. It looks the same in all directions. There are no markets. Look to the north, the south, the east or west – it is all the same. Mt. Sinai is just a mountain. The Jewish tradition attaches no real importance to his particular spot. We really do not even know which mountain it is. So the Torah was given in the middle of nowhere. But that’s the point. The Torah is what gives meaning and direction to our lives. Without it, we would not know what is right or wrong. We would have no idea what we need to do. We would be like animals, simply living according to our instincts. We would be slaves to our impulses or to a tyrant who would tell us what to do.

The Torah is the guide to how to live. It gives meaning and significance to everything we do. By giving us the Torah in the middle of a desert, in an empty and nondescript place, we learn that the Torah is what gives shape and meaning to our lives and nothing else. It also tells us that the Torah is applicable everywhere and not just in Israel. The Jewish People knew at the very beginning of our history that no matter where we are and what is happening in our lives, the Torah is what makes our lives worthwhile. It allows us to live with purpose and holiness.

As we draw near to the beginning of the new Jewish year, let us reaffirm our commitment to make the Torah the center of our lives. Let us make a decision to study Torah on a regular basis. But most importantly, let us make the decision to live our lives in accordance with the precepts of the Torah. Keeping Mitzvot and studying Torah are the best ways to make our lives meaningful and significant.

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