More than 3,300 years ago, the Jewish nation received their most precious gift. It is a gift so grand and so profound that it is coveted by all who comprehend its value.
Surviving the Test of Time
Over the course of history, there have been those who have reconstructed this special gift, and those who have tried to replicate its profundity with counterfeits. It has been the victim of evil innovators who have tried to modernize it and has been misconstrued by outsiders who erroneously absorbed its breadth of wisdom. It is only the Jewish People, the chosen recipients of this gift, who have held on to its authenticity, tightly preserving its purity through the test of time. I am referring, of course, to the Torah given at Har Sinai.
Soon, we will celebrate our acceptance of the Torah with the holiday of Shavuot. Our rabbis have compared this special time to the moment of marriage. With Mount Sinai serving as a most suitable canopy, the holiday of Shavuot is considered the long-awaited wedding day between the Almighty and the Jewish people. Instead of a ring or a coin, Gd gives his bride, the Jewish People, something far more precious. He betroths them with his holy Torah, to which we respond, “Na’asaeh ve’nishma.”
Why is this transmittal of the Torah specifically compared to marriage? Why not compare it to the relationship between a mother and her child, or maybe to that of a boss and an employee?
The answer lies in what separates marriage from all other relationships: Marriage is a testament of commitment. It represents the deepest connection two parties can share. That is why the marital knot is so difficult to break in both an emotional and a spiritual sense – because both husband and wife have invested so much in one another. It is this commitment that is celebrated so joyously at a wedding.
The Proper Perspective
Put yourself in a modern-day wedding hall, observing the emotional display of unity as the bride extends her hand to receive her long-awaited ring. Now imagine the groom, instead of taking out a ring, pulls out a large textbook. “Here!” he says. “Here is a list of the 613 laws you must follow in order for this marriage to work.”
Certainly, that would be a surprising tactic! Indeed, if one views the “ring” we received at Har Sinai as solely an oversized book of laws, they would find it utterly impossible to reconcile this difficulty.
Consider a different perspective, however. Before once again accepting the Torah on Shavuot this year, let’s recall the utter greatness and pricelessness of our most treasured possession. Let’s remember that our Torah is the ultimate wellspring of truth, “for everything is in it.”
Is it comprised of many laws and statutes? It is – as it should be. After all, they are the guidelines and procedures we rely on for living a life of meaning and gratification in both this world and the next. Put in this light, can the Torah really be called a “book of laws?” To the contrary! It is rather a precious diamond we will never let out of our sight.
Lastly, let us remember that the Torah is ours to consult in every situation. It is an unchanging and unerring source of direction for the entire Jewish nation.
Cause for Celebration
Like a marriage, Shavuot marks a total commitment between two parties who love each other, Gd and His chosen people. The Jewish nation’s declaration of “Na’asaeh Ve’nishma, We will do and we will understand,” was a promise to follow the laws under all circumstances, just as the bride pledges her unconditional faithfulness to her beloved. In the same manner that the groom accepts upon himself to love and cherish his bride forever, Gd commits himself continually to the never-ever-forsaken Jewish People.
We celebrate Shavuot because it is the anniversary of the original commitment made at Mount Sinai. The festival does not only commemorate ancient history. It is a yearly renewal of the original nuptial vows between us and Gd. The word “Shavuot” has the same root as the Hebrew word shevuah, an oath. Each year on Shavuot, we renew our oath to our beloved Creator.
Many people have the custom to stay up all night, engaged in Torah study. This practice reenacts the great excitement and love of the wedding night. The Torah is our wedding ring. We show our admiration of it through our study of its laws and lessons. Living a Torah-based life with great pride is a sign of our eternal commitment to Gd.
As Shavuot is truly the wedding season of the Jewish people, allow me to wish you all a mabrouk & mazal tov!