Summer is about having a change of pace, seeing different scenery, taking a break from our routine. We are freed from cold weather, winter clothes and sore throats. Still, Judaism is our life. There is no break from Torah. It is no less important to be careful about our divinely inspired lifestyle while on vacation as when at home.

There is a clear hint to this in one of this week's verses: "The children of Israel did all that G‑d had commanded Moses, as they camped by their banners so they traveled, each person according to his father's family" (Num. 2:34) Not only did they do as they were commanded when they camped, the tribes maintained their designated groupings even when they traveled. We are being told to take an example from our ancestors. Just as they acted when they encamped - were "at home" in familiar surroundings - so too they acted when they traveled. A Jew has to always remember that we were created to control our environment and to transform the physical world into the spiritual, not ever the other way around.

The Torah is ours, no one can take it from us….

Shavuot, the annual event of the Giving of the Torah, is quickly approaching. How do we maximize the experience? It is written, "The Torah was commanded to us by Moses, an inheritance to the congregation of Jacob". (Deut. 33:4) What is this verse telling me? First, that the Torah was commanded to us through Moses, not G‑d. Thus, no one can say he can't comprehend the Torah, that it is too high for him. This is because it was given through a person in the language of people. What more? That Torah is an inheritance. What is unique about the windfall of an inheritance is that it goes to a child, not to anyone else. If someone tries to bequeath his wealth to someone outside the family, there are grounds for a child to dispute this. Similarly, the Torah is ours, no one can take it from us.

The Talmud notes that the Hebrew word for "inheritance", "yirusha", is spelled almost the same as the word for "betrothing", "irusin". The Talmud says to read "betrothed" in place of "inheritance" in the verse above, to teach us that we are in a sense "engaged" to the Torah. It must be a lifelong and passionate relationship, not something that could be construed as cold and detached like an inheritance. The Alter Rebbe (in Meah Shaarim 38) takes it a step farther: by definition, an inheritance requires no work or effort on the part of the recipient; we all know children who do not appreciate the resources accumulated by their parents.

We can see another reason to read "betrothal" rather than "inheritance". The function of being engaged is to prepare for the wedding; it is an active and preparatory state of being. If we want to hold onto the Torah that we are about to receive, we must prepare ourselves for the wedding. In Hebrew, the wedding ceremony is called "kedushin", which can be translated as "sanctification" or as "separation". The way to make a vessel for the Torah is to sanctify ourselves and separate from the trivialities of the mundane, just as a Jewish bride and groom separate themselves as much as possible from the tides of pre-wedding physicality to do some spiritual work, as preparation for a lifetime of commitment. May we all receive the Torah with joy, internalizing its wisdom and living it fully.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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