Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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1 Sivan 5761 - May 23, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Zman Matan Toraseinu, Part II

by Rav Zev Leff

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 all levels.

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.

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