At this year’s First Fruits of Zion Shavu’ot conference, the 12-21 track explored the depths of the Torah’s knowledge and teaching and how God has taken something from heaven and given it to us for our daily lives.
We called it “Black Fire on White Fire” based upon a reference in the Midrash. The Midrash tells us that when God gave the Torah to the Jewish people, it was as if he were writing black fire upon white fire. This metaphor is meant to instill in us the supernatural way in which the Torah came down from the heavenly realms into the hands of man. The Torah and its commandments are divine instructions given to us to carry out in our daily lives. A slice of heaven that we can bring to earth.
Sessions began late Wednesday morning after 12-21ers joined the adults for a group address from Boaz Michael. Boaz welcomed everyone to this year’s Shavu’ot conference and set the tone for the event. Topics for the 12-21ers included the discipline of daily Torah study, the importance of the Torah cycle, and Yeshua and Paul’s relationship to the Torah. We also went bowling and played laser tag the first night as well as participated in an epic 12-21 carnival Thursday afternoon that helped raise funds for Camp Tzadi scholarships.
While there was plenty of energy for bowling and the carnival it seemed at first as if the students were a bit more laid back this year in the teaching sessions, especially when discussion and dialogue usually open up at the end of each session. That was until we got to the session entitled “Of Donkeys and Ditches: Applying the Torah Wisdom Today.” In this teaching we sought to figure out ways we can take the Torah’s wisdom, which at times can seem outdated, and apply it to today. In my discussions with adults studying Torah I know this is an important issue, how much more so with the 12-21ers.
I started out by asking the group for a show of hands as to how many of them have read things in the Torah that trouble them. To my surprise, over three-fourths of the room raised their hands. I then asked what the specific things that bothered them were. We cover topics such as slavery, the annihilation of the Canaanites, and stoning people to death. Their questions were not disrespectful; they were honest. I could tell that the kids felt safe expressing their opinions and we worked through each topic together.
We were wrestling with the Torah, and for me, this was the highlight of the conference. When we grapple with the text of the Bible, even acknowledging that there are parts that make us uncomfortable, it ultimately brings us closer to HaShem and his Torah. This is part of passing Messianic Judaism on to the next generation. The 12-21 Shavu’ot event was a huge success. We brought the Torah down to earth and found new ways to look at difficult issues and apply it to our lives.