How many of The Ten Commandments can you name?
A survey by Kelton Research some years ago found that less than six in ten Americans knew the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”.
And only 45% percent could recall the fifth commandment which bids us “Honor your father and mother.”
This week, Jewish people reenact a 3,333 year-old experience, when, standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai, they heard the Ten Commandments. On the holiday of Shavuot, (this year beginning Sunday night May 16 through Tuesday night, May 18, 2021) commemorates the giving of the Torah.
Central to the holiday’s observance is listening to the Ten Commandments being read in the synagogue on Monday. Some other customs specific to this holiday include pulling an all nighter (Sunday) of Torah study, reading of the Book of Ruth, eating dairy foods, and decorating one’s home and/or synagogue with flowers and greenery.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged every person, even small children, to come to synagogue to hear the Ten Commandments. Children, he reminded us, are the “guarantors” ensuring the Torah’s continuity. And though they may not understand what’s being said, the experience will impact them, he said, pointing to the Talmudic statement that before a child is born an angel teaches him the entire Torah. This, the Talmud says, the child forgets upon birth, but the Torah they absorbed leaves its mark on the child.
It is thus important for children, said the Rebbe, to be present in shul to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments, for though the child will not understand what is being read, the words reverberate in the child’s subconscious.
And as concerns the study of Torah, which is infinite and can never be fully mastered, the Rebbe said, every Jew is a “child,” and ought to make a point of being present in shul during the reading of the Torah.
Wishing you a very meaningful and joyous Shavuot experience.