Soon you will be reliving standing at Mount Sinai at what is arguably the greatest moment humankind ever experienced. Receiving the Torah changed everything. It made it possible to live a life in which you actually end up where you want to be, and your example changes the game for the rest of the world as well. When you look at words like “morality” the source of all of the basics and far more, was that day in Sivan. No gift can even begin to compare to what Hashem gave us on that day.
An interesting halacha concerning gifts (don’t you like to hear about gifts?) relates not to the gift, but to the panache of being a giver.
Let’s say that your motive is magnanimous; the reason that you are giving the gift is completely altruistic; you have been made aware of someone else’s genuine need, and want to help them out by bearing some of their burden. Your next move ideally is to do your best to make yourself as “small” as the situation allows. In fact, if you can be invisible to give anonymously that would be perfect. Your goal is to let them feel dignified, not needy or “unfortunate”. Being in need “translates” to many people as failure, lack of street smarts, and vulnerability. When you give discretely, you save the dignity of good people.
Need isn’t the only language of giving. Sometimes it is the language of closeness and even of love. If you give something out of love, then being anonymous is not only unnecessary, it is antithetical to your purpose You have to really be there, not just to soak up the good feelings, but to let the other person know that you using the gift as a means of conveying a far deeper message. You want to let them know that you are giving them yourself.
Hashem gave us the Torah out of love.
There was nothing subtle about those days in Sivan when we faced the mountain. If you were there, (and in the most genuine sense, you were), you would have heard lightening and seen thunder. You would have seen the mountain ablaze, shaking violently, and the heavens and earth meeting. What that means is that you would be forced existentially to acknowledge that the system you have always know isn’t what you thought it was. You may be under the impression that reality is objective. You take it in through your senses, and let your mind interpret what you saw (heard, smelled, touched or tasted). You know that Hashem can control nature; there’s nothing new there for a people who saw the sea split, and who had lived through the plagues in Egypt. What is new to you, is that He also controls your ability to perceive reality. He controls your senses. If He wants you to be able to see thunder, that is His choice and prerogative. He can and did make our abilities change by changing nature from within us. Why would He do that?
He gave the Torah out of such love that wanted it to be clear to us that He is giving us something of Himself, the power and energy that usually is hidden from the human eye. He wanted us to know how beloved we are.
Did it ever happen to you? Did you receive a gift from Hashem that He “signed”? Those times when you had every reason to assume that life would take a specific path but just didn’t. Did you have personal “U turns”?
I think we all have had times in which the word “definite” turned out to be relative. Step back from yourself for a moment. Think about where you are today, and where you were when you were eleven. Could you have predicted the changes that would unfold?
When the miracles happen you sometimes have to work hard to notice them. They are not as visible as they were at Mount Sinai, and habit can be so stupefying that nothing that you experience opens your eyes.
So out of love, Hashem gave us another gift; one that occurs frequently. He made it possible to live without falling into the trap of letting time erode your sense of wonder.
Time is hard to define. We relate to it by using artificial constructs; minutes hours days. Who decided a minute has to have 60 seconds? If it isn’t the words we use all of the time (seconds minutes, hours, days) what is it? One definition of “time” is that it is the measured progression of change. The earth has its cycle, and its movement is how we keep track of things. Every week we take a break from the constant movement, at least to some degree. When you keep Shabbos, and you take yourself out of time & space, you are experiencing a gift. It is the one that the Talmud tells us is a gift from Hashem’s treasury.
Time can be a cruel master. How many times have you heard someone tell you something that sounds like, “You have to be there by 5.00”. Or “You have to complete the report by Jan.20.” or “The casserole should stay in the oven for 1 hour. Leave it in longer, it will be dry tasteless and touch. Take it out too soon it will be runny and repulsive. “ Sometimes, the “someone” who forces you to submit to the clock is you! Shabbos is the time when you leave what Alsheich would call the world of “fragmentation”, where a million competing goals vie for your undivided attention. You enter what he referred to as “the world of unity”.
Imagine a 5000-piece puzzle. When you finally put it together you discover that not only does it form an interesting picture, but it also simultaneously portrays the artist who designed it. During the week you do your best to put the pieces of a fragmented universe together. On Shabbos you find meaning.
This is the greatest gift of all.
The word Torah is sourced in the word ‘horaah’, which means teaching. The Torah inevitably teaches, instructs, and lets you see the way. Without the Torah, navigating the world spiritually would be ‘mission-impossible’. Shabbos is considered to be so significant, that if it was on one side of a scale, and all of the other mitzvot on the other side of the scale, the scale would balance.
This year Shabbos and Shavuos are come together. The two greatest gifts!
Enjoy every moment.