Rekindling the Sinai covenant and renewing our vows

Amanda Greene June 2024 image

As we approach Shavuot, we are transported back in time to Mount Sinai, a place of awe and a Divine revelation that solidified our ancestors' commitment to a profound covenant that has transcended generations. It was there that the mountain loomed large, not as a threat, but as a symbol of the steadfast relationship between the Divine and the people of Israel.

According to Jewish tradition, Shavuot is likened to a wedding, in a mystical metaphor where the marriage between G-d and the people of Israel is renewed. In this scene, the wedding canopy is the cloud that enveloped Sinai, the witnesses are Heaven and Earth, and the ketubah (marriage contract) is the Torah itself.

For Jewish mystics, every Jewish marriage echoes this sacred union. The Prophet Hosea envisions G-d saying: "I will betroth you to Me forever." This concept encapsulates the eternal bond celebrated each Shavuot, marking the anniversary of Israel's first intimate experience with the Divine.

Each year, the festival of Shavuot offers us a chance to renew our vows. When we say, "Yes, I choose to receive the Torah," we renew our relationship with G-d, reaffirm our place within this sacred relationship, and reenact the ancient marriage ceremony of Mount Sinai.

Every "I do" is a personal declaration of faith and commitment, a choice to embrace our Jewish identity anew. Say it intentionally, invoking the full meanings of each word: "I"--by, and for, myself--and "do," in an active, not passive, way.  

Today, as we face increased antisemitism, ongoing tensions in Israel and Gaza, and global challenges, the call to renew our covenant with G-d becomes even more poignant. How do we, amid such turmoil, renew our relationship with Judaism, and recommit to the Jewish community?

How do we choose to be Jewish… this year?

As we observe Shavuot, each of us is presented with an annual opportunity to reflect: "What will I do this year? Will I deepen my connection to Jewish community, enhance my Jewish knowledge, or engage more actively in mitzvot?"

Shavuot challenges us to not only celebrate but to actively commit to the renewal of our faith.

May your Shavuot be filled with a reconnection to the Holy One, and a renewed desire to join the Jewish people in our eternal journey. This Shavuot, let us all declare, with hearts full, and eyes open, "I DO."

Rabbi Amanda Greene, RJE, is the Associate Rabbi and Director of Lifelong Learning at Chicago Sinai Congregation.

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