The idea that we explained until now, that the Torah is in
fact a present and not a liability, can explain the reaction
of the angels who begged G-d to leave the Torah with them
and not to give it to human beings. Yet, when Moshe Rabbeinu
was directed by G-d to answer their claim, he refuted their
request for Torah by saying that basically none of the Ten
Commandments -- and hence the Torah in general -- applies to
angels who have no idolatry, do not work, have no parents,
cannot murder, have no immorality and so on.
Perhaps the angels knew that the Torah was not applicable to
them but they wanted the Jewish people to know through Moshe
Rabbeinu that if it did apply they would have desired it as
a benefit and not that they breathed a sigh of relief that
it was not being given to them as a liability.
The medrash in fact echoes this idea, for the
medrash says: Do not think that I am giving the Torah
to you as a liability, for even the angels desired it. When
the Torah was given the experience was so overwhelming that
it caused their souls to flee, and they died and had to be
resurrected. Would it not have been easier if G-d had given
them the strength to receive the Torah without dying?
Perhaps Hashem wanted to show them that although Torah
demands great self-sacrifice, and even sometimes to give up
one's life for it, it is the Torah itself that revives the
person giving him eternal life.
The rabbis relate that the dew of the resurrection of the
dead is in fact the Torah itself. He who has the light of
Torah, the light of Torah revives him, as it says Toras
Hashem temimoh, the Torah is perfect, meshivas
nofesh, it revives the soul.
In this light we can resolve the following question. The
rabbis relate that G-d lifted the mountain over us and
literally forced us to receive the Torah. This was still
considered valid since, when one is coerced into buying
something, the sale is nonetheless valid. However the
question is raised that when one is coerced into selling
something the sale is not valid. To force someone to take
something is considered in the end to have been taken
willingly, but to force someone to give up something remains
forced, that is invalid. When it is to one's benefit then it
is valid, but if it is a liability then it is not valid.
If so, how could the forced Torah be considered accepted
willingly? It must be that the acceptance of the Torah was a
benefit which the Jews received and not a liability.
There is an argument whether one must enjoy every yom
tov at a physical level, fulfilling the posuk
that yom tov is a day lochem, "for you," or if
it can be celebrated totally in a spiritual manner
fulfilling the posuk "a day for Hashem."
Everyone, however, agrees that Shavuos, the day the Torah
was given, must also be celebrated at a physical level. This
is to emphasize that the Torah is a very concrete benefit on
This is one of the sources for the custom of bringing
flowers and greenery into the home and shul on
Shavuos. Rav Yaakov Emden attributes this to the mitzvah of
simchas yom tov, enjoying the yom tov enhanced
by aromatic plants, but if so why do we not fulfill this on
all yomim tovim?
Perhaps the obligation to enjoy Shavuos physically is
stronger than all other yomim tovim and we must
include the enjoyment of sight and smell also to emphasize
that Torah benefits all aspects of man's existence.
The other customs of Shavuos also reflect the idea that
Torah is a benefit. We read Megillas Rus which
related how Rus accepted the Torah recognizing the great
opportunity it provided. We eat milk products since milk is
the food that nurtures life at its inception representing
the fact that Torah is the foundation of life. We stay up
all night Shavuos eve in anxious anticipation of the great
occasion to occur in the morning and to show how precious
the Torah is to us. And we recite Akdomus before
reading the Torah which graphically describes how precious
the Torah is to us and how we resist the temptations of the
nations who had wanted us to abandon the Torah in return for
promises of the physical and material benefits of
assimilation. We respond to them that all temptations are
naught compared to the beauty and benefit of Torah.
This lesson that the Torah was given to us for our benefit
was made evident already on the sixth day of Sivan. Tosafos
explains that in fact the Torah was ordained to be given,
according to everyone on the sixth day of Sivan. However
according to Reb Yossi, Moshe pushed it off one day. Some
explain that Moshe used his power to expound the Torah to
delay its being given one day for bnei Yisroel were
not fully prepared on the sixth day.
The implication in this can be represented as follows: a
wedding is set for a certain date: a hall, caterer, band,
photographer, etc. have all been reserved for that date. The
day before the wedding a cousin calls and says he will not
be able to arrive on the set date of the wedding and asks if
the wedding can be delayed a day or two. Obviously this
would be impossible. However if the bride were to call and
say that it is impossible for her to arrive on the set date
and asks for the wedding to be delayed a day or two, she
will definitely be accommodated and the wedding will not
proceed without her.
If the Torah were a liability it should have been given on
the set date whether we were ready or not. But since the
Torah is a present, specifically for our benefit, so if we
were not ready the entire timetable of creation was changed
to accommodate us. Therefore, by not giving the Torah on the
sixth day G-d revealed that the main intent of giving the
Torah was for our benefit.
Hence, it is called a zman matan Toraseinu, not the
day we received the Torah, but rather the day it was evident
that the Torah is a matana, a present. This lesson
was not only not abrogated or nullified when the
luchos were broken but was strengthened and
intensified. This is due to the fact that the breaking of
the luchos because the Jewish people served the
eigel only makes sense if the Torah is a present
which Moshe Rabbeinu denied the Jewish people because of
their sin. But if the Torah is a liability, it would be
illogical to remove a liability to punish a sin.
Therefore we celebrate the sixth of Sivan as zman matan
Toraseinu, a time where the nature of the Torah as a
benefit was demonstrated to us in a most poignant manner.