D’Var Torah – Shavuot

 

June 7, 2008

 

Given by Eva Moreimi

 

 

 

Shabbat Shalom! Tomorrow night is Erev Shavuot. Shavuot is the time of the giving of our Torah, when Moshe accepted the Torah on Mt. Sinai.

 

The holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah that we receive it every day, but it was first given at this time. Thus it is the giving, not the receiving, that makes this holiday significant.

 

The period from Passover to Shavuot is a time of great anticipation. We count each of the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavuot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name of the festival. This period is known as the Counting of the Omer. The counting reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality.

 

This period is a time of partial mourning, during which weddings, parties, and dinners with dancing are not conducted, in memory of a plague during the lifetime of Rabbi Akiba, one of Judaism’s greatest scholars.

 

It is customary to eat a dairy meal at least once during Shavuot. Some say it is a reminder of the promise regarding the land of Israel, a land flowing with “milk and honey”. Another view is that it is because our ancestors had just received the Torah and did not have both meat and dairy dishes available.

 

Shavuot is also the time when we read from the Book of Ruth, the story about Naomi the Israelite and her daughter-in-law Ruth from the enemy tribe of Moabites. The story of Ruth takes place between the seasons of Passover and Shavuot. It is a story about chessed – loving kindness. Loyalty, love, kindness, the value of persons and the need to understand one another stand out. The book of Ruth tells us that no matter how bad things may be, goodness can exist, if we are willing to make the effort.

 

My Father passed away last year on Shavuot. He was a very loving and compassionate person, loved and respected by everyone who knew him and he is missed a lot. It is in commemoration of his 1st yahrzeit that I would like to share a personal story with you.

 

 

 

 

My Parents were also given a Torah. The year was 1945.

 

My Mother and her sister returned to Plesivec after the war from the Auschwitz concentration camp where their parents perished in the gas chambers.

 

Plesivec had a small but thriving Jewish community before World War II, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, later known as Czechoslovakia.

 

The Blum Psychiatric Hospital, the only institution in the country, was located in Plesivec. Many of the doctors were Jewish. There was an active social life for the prominent Jews and non-Jews of Plesivec, including the Kellner family, my grandparents. My grandpa, Karl Kellner served as the treasurer of the Jewish community.

 

After the war a Catholic woman by the name of Mrs. Balazs visited my Mom, carrying rolled up Torah fragments in her arms. She wanted to return the Torah to the Jews, knowing that it was sacred to them. Most of the Plesivec Jews perished in the war and there was no longer a synagogue. The woman gave the Torah scrolls to my Mom. She explained that during the war the synagogue was ransacked and she picked up the pieces of the Torah scrolls on the street and hid them in the hay under her pigs, hoping that nobody would find them there. My Mother was touched by her courage and kindness. She wrapped the Torah scrolls in white damask tablecloths and placed them in the closet.

 

My Parents got married in 1947 and my Father moved from Jelsava to Plesivec, where they lived in the Kellner family house and the Torah scrolls remained with them.

 

When my parents immigrated to USA in 1971, the Torah scrolls traveled with them first to Cleveland, then to Minneapolis. They did not part with their Torah until February 2007, when they moved into a nursing home. The Torah was then transferred to our house.

 

The six separate pieces of the Torah scrolls may be from three different Torahs, each incomplete, but well preserved. These Torah fragments are very meaningful to my family and me.  They are a connection to my grandparents, whom I never knew.

 

We will be presenting segments of this Torah to each of our children, Tommy, Mark and Corinne in the name of my parents, their loving grandparents in the hope that the memory of the Holocaust will never be erased and that they will continue to carry on our Jewish tradition.