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Shavuot - the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai

05/21/2015 08:43:56 AM

May21

When I was a kid in Winnipeg, Pesach and Sukkot were the major “big two” of the “three festivals” - Shalosh Regalim. Somehow, Shavuot was a smaller “third wheel”. I never knew why, because Shavuot was after all, “Z'man Matan Torahtaynu” - The time of the giving of the Torah. After all, the Jews said “Naseh V'Nishma” - “We will do and we will listen”. They did not say “We are happy to receive the Torah”, because they simply did not know what was in it. We stood at Mt. Sinai and received God's Torah! I wondered why they never said we are so happy to receive the Torah. They did not celebrate the receiving of the Torah as a joyful experience.

I loved hearing the Yiddish sermons of Rabbi Kravitz, our rabbi at the Talmud Torah Synagogue. One day, he told a story attributed, I think, to the Kotzker Rebbe, and he answered my question. A king of an ancient country had a daughter and she was the most beautiful girl that anyone had ever seen. People heard about her all over the kingdom. For some reason the king locked her up in a castle that no one could visit except her immediate family. No one saw her grow up, but her beauty became legendary. When she was about twenty years old, the king announced that he was looking for someone to marry his daughter. The wealthiest best looking men of the kingdom all applied for the job, but whenever the king met a potential suitor, his answer was always no.

One day a poor man down on his luck, a kind, God fearing man, asked the king if he could marry his daughter. He told the king that while he was learned and a scholar, he had no wealth to offer the princess. The king immediately said “I want you to be her husband”. Needless to say, when the young man met the princess, he was overwhelmed by her phenomenal beauty. As they became Man and Wife and as the weeks went by, he realized that she was even more beautiful on the inside than on the outside. Indeed, she was the finest person he had ever met in his life. The depression and sadness of this young man dissipated. He became happy and full of joy at this most unbelievable, unexpected development in his life. A kind, special wife who was beautiful in every sense.

So, the Kotzker Rebbe said it was with the Jewish people. They had just come out of Egypt. They were down trodden, poor and broken. When God offered the Jewish people the Torah, they accepted it without even looking or knowing what was in the Torah. A few months later, they began to realize the great treasure that had come into their life. The words of Torah, the teachings of Torah elevated their life and they were joyful. And so, said the Kotzker Rebbe, we received the Torah in Spring but we celebrate the joy of Torah - “Simchat Torah” in the Fall at the end of the festival of Sukkot. I wish you all a happy wonderful Shavuot - the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. 

Sat, September 26 2020 8 Tishrei 5781