By: Rabbi Mendy wolf
This weekend, Jewish people all over the world will commemorate what is perhaps the most significant event in history: the Giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The Sages tell us that the Torah was given in Sivan, the third month of the Jewish calendar, for it is a “Torah of Three” given to a “Nation of Three”.
Three? Isn’t there One Torah? One G-d? One Jewish people? Aren’t we striving for unity between them?
Yes, but ironically, One doesn’t necessarily represent the truest unity; Three does. In general, there are three basic ways to approach new ideas: One, Two, or Three.
According to Kabbalah, the three numbers can be understood as follows:
The number one means that there is only one right way – mine. I create a lifestyle for myself based on convenience, my interpretations of experiences, and a sense of personal morality. Anything I encounter which does not fit with my personal philosophy is simply irrelevant.
The number two implies that life is a battleground where two opposing forces struggle for dominion. My desires are pitted against the dictates of others. I may submit myself to authority, but in action only; my will remains in the camp of the opposition. I challenge, I resist, and I resent.
The number three affirms: I acknowledge the validity and necessity of a particular discipline. Although it may seem restrictive or difficult, I appreciate its underlying wisdom. Recognizing that it is to my own benefit, I willingly follow the rules, and they become part of my lifestyle. The two – the discipline (i.e. Torah) and I – merge to form a new, third entity.
This is the message conveyed by the term “Torah of Three”. It teaches us to partner with the Torah, allowing it into our hearts. Don’t approach it as an opponent, or even as a foreigner, it says; be a Jew of Three.
What is the basis for the difference between the three approaches, specifically the first two and the third? How can one come to appreciate the value of accepting a foreign discipline?
The key is knowledge. At the heart of a democratic society is education. An informed patient will appreciate the doctor’s instructions. And one who learns Torah will serve G-d with joy.
Torah is the bridge between us and G-d, the medium through which we can see our relationship with Him as a Threesome.
Indeed, much of Torah focuses on the actual 613 Mitzvos and their numerous details and applications. A wealth of Torah scholarship delves into the particulars of the how, including times, amounts, examples and exemptions. But there is another part of Torah. There is that aspect of understanding why we do the Mitzvos altogether. What is the purpose of our existence? What does the performance of Mitzvos accomplish? What is the rationale behind the laws?
This is the part that empowers us to move past the Two of reluctant obedience. For if the How is the body of the Torah, then the Why is its soul. An informed Jew is a happy Jew, a passionate Jew, and a living Jew; a Jew who sees G-d’s way of life as his own; a Jew of Three.
So as the Torah is read aloud once again this Shavuos, let us challenge ourselves to add some more Torah learning into our schedules. May the soul of the Torah fill us with appreciation for the privilege of being members of the “Nation of Three.” And let us be happy Jews.
Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization which promotes Jewish values throughout the business community in NYC. R’ Mendy is a sought after teacher and lecturer and resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and family. Contact Rabbi Mendy to book him to speak or with feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.