The journey to Shavuot really begins at Passover. There is a custom of counting this 49 day period known as the Omer, from the second night of Passover to the first night of Shavuot. Several commentators link the 49 days of the Omer to the 48 qualities identified in Pirke Avot 6:6 as the attributes a person needs to cultivate in order to acquire Torah. In this practice, each day is dedicated to a different character trait.
The list includes some more intuitive qualities like humility, tranquility, and joy. And some less so, like minimizing pleasure and speech. But what has captured my attention today is the phrase "acquire Torah." Or in the Hebrew "Kinyan Torah - קנין תורה." Kinyan is the same Hebrew root used to describe the act of entering into a partnership. Kinyan is a deeply relational word. It is not something we can do with ourselves alone. The 48 qualities in Pirkei Avot are also deeply relational (learning in order to teach, giving the benefit of the doubt, companionship, asking and answering, etc.).
The Vilna Gaon adds an important observation. No one person can embody all 48 attributes. It is simply not possible; each of us has different strengths, different human qualities, different capacities of heart, mind, and spirit. According to Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, "That is why we learn in hevruta, with study companions. We need each other to reveal Torah in all its fullness, beauty, and complexity. It is through each other that we may merit revelation and truly acquire Torah."
I hope to see many of you at the Center City Kehillah Tikkun on Tuesday Night starting at 7 pm, where I, along with KT members Rabbi Alissa Wise, Hillary Blecker & Jessica Levy, Zoe Cohen and Jules Burnstein will be teaching.
Ramadan Mubarak and Shabbat Shalom!