Pillars of Faith
The Scripture uses various words to speak of the commandments of the Torah. One of the terms that is used to refer to the commandments is the word: “edut” = testimony. In a certain sense all of the commandments can be referred to as “edut” because they all testify to the basic truth that God is our Father and King and that we are His children and servants who received His Law through Moses. But certain specific commandments stand out in that they are witnesses to specific truths that serve as the bedrock of our faith.
The concept of an observance serving as a witness goes to the heart of the commandments. One of the underlying themes of the commandments is the sanctity that they infuse into our lives, and through us, into the world around us. Thinking of the concept that the commandment represents, or even speaking about the concept that the commandment represents does not have the same impact as the practical observance of the commandment. Take the Sabbath as an example. Thinking of the truth that God created the world in six days and rested on the Sabbath or speaking and studying about this concept can never touch the actual observance of the Sabbath.
If you think about it or talk about it, the concept may penetrate to your head and perhaps even to your heart, but you will not have lived it. Practical observance of the Sabbath makes this truth a living reality that becomes intertwined into the very fabric of your being.
The Three Festivals; Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), and Sukkot (Tabernacles) testify to the three pillars of the Jewish faith. These are; the truth that God is Master of all (Pesach), the truth that Moses is His prophet (Shavuot) and the truth that we are His witnesses to carry the first two truths through the corridors of time (Sukkot). On Pesach we focus on the complete Mastery of nature that was displayed through the miracles of the exodus, on Shavuot we emphasize the Torah that we received through Moses and on Sukkot we relive God’s unique embrace that our nation experienced in the journey through the wilderness.
These truths were established in our midst by God Himself (Psalm 78:5). It was He who showed us that there is no power beside Him (Deuteronomy 4:35), it was He who demonstrated that Moses is for real (Exodus 19:9), and it was His embrace that set us apart from the nations of the world, confirming our appointment as His witnesses (Isaiah 43:12).
The ramification of these truths is that Israel’s testimony is true; the God who we serve is the true God and the Torah of Moses that we follow is God’s will. There are those who claim to believe in the exodus from Egypt, they claim to believe in the prophecy of Moses and they even claim to believe in Isaiah, who identifies Israel as God’s witness, yet they reject the obvious ramification of these truths and they claim that a god who Israel never
knew is a real god and they claim that it is they, and not Israel, who possess the
exclusive knowledge of God’s will.
These people, while claiming to believe in the foundational truths, never encountered these truths in the setting that God intended that they be learned. These people did not observe the festivals of God that are designed by God to teach these truths to the future generations. The truths of the exodus, Sinai and our journey in the wilderness are to them theoretical abstracts. Since they did not encounter these truths in the context that God designed to preserve these truths, they never lived these truths.
It is our responsibility as God’s witnesses to immerse ourselves into the observance of the festivals of our God in a way that that the spirit of each of these festivals penetrates into the very core of our beings. We can then hope to merit the day when the light of God will illuminate the universe – as it shines through us (Isaiah 60:3).
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal