Shavuot: Our Own Inner Torah

When my daughter Eden was 5 years old, we were living in suburban Philadelphia. We had just finished the first spring-like week in March. My husband Ben and I took Hadassah (who was 8 at the time) and Eden outside to ride bikes for the first time that season. Eden was about to graduate from a tricycle to a “real bike” with training wheels. The next day, while getting out of the car to enter school, Eden asked me if she and Hadassah could ride their bikes to shul on Shabbat. My first thought was that this wasn’t possible as we walked along a very busy road part of the way! But I also thought about Shabbat. I said, “Eden, it wouldn’t really be safe to ride your bike all the way to shul, but I am also not sure if we are really allowed to ride bikes on Shabbat. I will have to check into it.” Eden looked thoughtful and said, “Well, G-d knows everything, and so we could ask G-d if we can ride bikes on Shabbat, but well, G-d doesn’t talk, so well . . .” I said, “Eden G-d gave us the Torah so we know how to live. Later, I will look in the Torah and find out the answer. The Torah is there to teach us all the rules.” Granted, bicycles were not invented in Biblical times, but for a five-year-old, this was the best age-appropriate response I could give to “googling it later and seeing what I get.” Incidentally, after some research, I discovered there is a good deal of dispute on the matter, with the majority of opinions coming down on the side of riding bikes being forbidden on Shabbat.

As Shavuot approaches I am reminded of the importance of seeing the Torah and Jewish tradition as a guidebook for life. I am not just talking about the written Torah or even what we think of as the Oral Torah (the Talmud and later laws). I’m not talking about whether it is permitted to ride a bike on Shabbat. I am talking about what it means to consult with G-d when in doubt. To look to G-d for guidance. We all have an inner spiritual compass- and inner spark of G-d that we can turn to for help. On Shavuot we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. But receiving the Torah is life-time of work and reward. The more we plumb her depths, the greater the pleasure we can find from following the Torah’s ways. Knowing what to do is not always easy. Sometimes we can look to Jewish tradition, books, and values to find answers. Other times, we need to rely on our own inner Torah that we receive anew each Shavuot. Each person’s journey is unique and G-d’s plan for each of us is different.  Sometimes we can pray and pray and pray for guidance, and not hear any answers.  Other times, the answers are right in front of us, but we don’t hear or see them because maybe they are not the answers we want. My prayer for all of us is that we take the opportunity to receive our “Torahs” with gratitude and awareness this Shavuot.