Why did G-d give us the Torah?
RABBI PINI PINK
Many significant lessons can be learned from this. Our sages tell us that when Moshe was about to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, he told them of G-d’s promise to give the Torah to His beloved people following their liberation from bondage. They asked when that happy day would be, and Moshe replied it would be 50 days later.
So, the children of Israel counted every day. One day is gone, two days, three, and so on as they eagerly looked forward to the fiftieth day. The children of Israel understood that there could be no real freedom from fear of oppression by others, nor freedom from their own evil inclinations except through laws of justice and righteousness. These could be made only by the creator of all mankind , because He knew best what was good for them and what was good for us. It’s not surprising, therefore, that they were so eager to receive the divine Torah containing wonderful laws to guide them and all the world.
Like our ancestors at Mount Sinai, we must also proclaim, “Naaseh vnishmah (we will do and learn). Only then will we have lasting freedom. Indeed, it was their determination, while still in Egypt, to accept the Torah that merited them their liberation from enslavement.
We can relate this to our current situation. This year, Shavuot isn’t going to be the same as usual. Unfortunately, we can’t go to shul and hear the ten commandments, and we can’t partake in delicious dairy brochos. We can’t enjoy the yom tov meals with friends. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate Shavuot.
The Jewish people had faith back in the desert 3 332 years ago. They counted towards this great day, so we to need to keep our faith strong, looking forward to the day when the world returns to normal and becomes a better place.
If we think where the Torah was given, it seems odd. Surely it would have made more sense for the Torah to have been given when the Jewish people arrived in the land of Israel.
But G-d chose to give the Torah at Sinai, in a desert, a place of desolation and emptiness. G-d wanted us to focus on the why not the how. Why He gave us the Torah, not how. If we focus only on the location and its beauty, we can lose sight of what’s important.
So this year, while we remain in our homes, let’s focus on the why. Why did G-d give us the Torah? What’s our mission in this world? Yes it will be strange not going to shul and watching children bring their bikkurim basket. However, we can and we must take the beauty of the festival and celebrate it in our homes. Set aside some fruit, and give it to someone who is in need. Read the ten commandments as a family, learn about them, and understand their relevance in our lives today. Keep our spirits high, and believe that very soon, we will be able to celebrate in our shuls. This way, those who have children at home can truly celebrate Shavuot in spite of our situation.
- Rabbi Pini Pink is the rabbi at Chabad Greenstone.