The Sages of the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 1;7) taught that the Torah was given in Three Situations – in Fire, in Water, and in Wilderness. This is based on three verses that describe the giving of Torah at Sinai: Fire: “The entire Mountain of Sinai was smoking because G-d had descended upon it in fire” (Shemos 19;18) Water – as per Deborah the prophetess’s poetic depiction: “the earth quaked and even the heavens trickled; even the clouds dripped water. Mountains melted before G-d – as did Sinai - before Hashem G-d of Israel” (Shoftim 5;4-5). Wilderness, as per the verse, “G-d spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai” (Bamidbar 1;1) The Midrash elaborates: the lesson here is that these three basic elements of life are all free. Fire, water and wilderness are available to all at no charge. Nobody has to pay to gain access to them. The same is true of Torah. No barriers of wealth or finance exist to prevent any person claiming his or her share in the Torah or in Judaism. The Torah is free for all to take. This is the distinguishing factor between the three crowns listed in the Ethics of the Fathers; “There are three crowns – the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship”. (Avos 4;13). Whereas the possibility of inheriting the crown of kingship is restricted to those who are of the royal family of David, and likewise the crown of priesthood is limited to those who are Kohanim through birth. To achieve the crown of Torah, however, there are no bars of family of origin, of wealth, or of status. The Torah and Judaism, are available to all without exception. For that reason we read the Book of Ruth on Shavuos. The sincere Moabites convert showed that there are no barriers to entry into Judaism. The Torah is free for all to take. The concluding words of our main prayers v’teyn chelkeynu be’Toratecho “Grant us our portion in Your Torah”, imply that we all have a share - ‘our portion’ - in the Torah. It is up to us to claim that portion - by study and by practice. May we all merit, this Shavuos, to do so. With wishes of Chag Sameyach – a good and happy Yom Tov.

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