Torah is the heart beat of our people
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Rabbis) from the first two centuries of the common era opens as follows:
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgement. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.
Whether entirely historically accurate the teaching is the cornerstone for rabbinic authority. It teaches us two things: One the Torah has been filtered and passed down through multiple generations. Second, and this is perhaps to be inferred, that each generation taught and interpreted the Torah in their own unique way.
Yet this teaching is incomplete in some ways. It stops almost more than 2,200-2,400 years ago. Perhaps the teaching could go on to say:
The men of the Great Assembly gave it to the Rabbis of the Mishnah (the Amoraim). The Rabbis of the Mishnah gave it to the Rabbis of the Talmud (the Tanaim). The Rabbis of the Talmud gave it to the Gaonim. The Gaonim gave it to the commentator. The commentators gave it to the Kabbalists. Then the Kabbalists gave it to the founders of the Reform, Orthodox and Conservative movements, who in turn gave it to us today.
I might have missed a few people along the way, and this list is definitely open to discussion. However, the idea here is that the Torah, which we celebrate this week with Simchat Torah, has not only survived for hundreds of years but has been sustained and even cherished in every generation. The Torah is the heart beat of our people. It is the thing that has kept us and will keep us. I wish you all a chag sameach and Shabbat Shalom.