Rabbi Dr David Nossel
This day of Shavuot, the time of the giving of our Torah. (Yom Tov Amidah for Shavuot)
(חג השבועות הזה זמן מתן תורתנו. (תפילת שבועות
Shavuot is the annual celebration marking the giving of the Torah to us by G-d on Mount Sinai.1
It's a massive celebration. Shuls around the world are traditionally adorned with beautiful flowers.
What I found most puzzling about Shavuot is the meaning of its name: 'Weeks'. What does 'weeks' have to do with the giving of the Torah?
Sure, I do realise that Shavuot follows 7 weeks of counting the Omer. But so what? Why do those preceding weeks of preparation determine the name, and thereby the essence, of the Festival of receiving the Torah?
There is another question that I have been puzzled by. The first teaching in Ethics of our Fathers is 'Moses received the Torah from Sinai'. From Sinai - really? I would have thought it more correct to say either that Moses received the Torah from G-d, or at Sinai. But 'from Sinai'? Surely not.
So what's going on?
I think that the answer to both these questions lies in the discovery of the life-changing message that G-d and the sages wanted us to make.
The discovery is that the giving of the Torah to us by G-d on Sinai does not represent a culmination of G-d's plan. The day of the giving of the Torah was preceded by weeks of preparation. And what about the giving of the Torah itself? Does it follow after the preparation? No. Its name is 'Weeks' because it too is part of those weeks. It too is part of a preparation.
Of course the Sages could have taught us that Moses received the Torah from G-d at Sinai. But they chose to teach us something else: that the Torah that Moses received began not from the time it was in G-d's Hands, but from the time it had arrived at Sinai. Moses received Torah from its arrival at Sinai onwards. Not before.
At the essence of the festival of the giving of the Torah lies the essence of the Torah itself: our receiving Torah from G-d is part of the preparation of Torah. As lofty as it certainly is, it is still part of the ‘weeks’.
Its goal is what we do with it thereafter, from when it reaches Sinai, and through it we make our Shuls, our homes, our communities and our world blossom.