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The Meaning of Shavuot

Recently, I opened one of the many Torah commentaries that line my shelves, and found these words, “My Haftorah can be find [sic] on pg. 509 in the larger Hertz Chumash.” Forty-five years ago, I read those words before chanting the prophet Amos on the Shabbat when I became a bar mitzvah. As I looked over the pages, I could even decipher transliterations over a few select Hebrew words.

I had opened this Bible in search of an alternative translation of a curious Hebrew phrase. In our weekly class, we were transfixed by an unusual verse and grappling with the meaning of some of the Torah’s words. More often than not, I rely on other commentaries, but on this occasion, I searched for another interpretation. Mysteriously, the Bible opened to my Haftorah. And when I saw my handwriting and the introductory words scrawled above the Haftorah Amos, I stumbled upon my thirteen-year-old self.

I wondered. “Why did the rabbi instruct me to scribble those words in the chumash?” I tried to jog my memory, “Did anyone else turn to pg. 509? Had the rabbi taught me the meaning of the words I chanted?” I do not recall. I do remember the praise of family members and friends. A flood of memories filled my heart. My grandparents acted as if my bar mitzvah was the greatest in thousands of years.

I laughed as I remembered...