Shavuos; Humility :
There is one thing that sets Shavuos apart from all other festivals; whether Torah or Rabbinic ones, and that is that Shavuos is so small… Each yom tov has its own mitzvos; Pesach has matza, korban, etc, Chanuka has the lights, the hallel, etc Purim has its mitzvas, as does Sukkos. And Shavuos? We have tikkun leil when we learn all night, but that is a custom and the same is done on Hoshana Rabbah and the Shulchan Aruch brings that, if possible, to stay up discussing Yetzias Mitzrayim after Seder night until one is too tired. So too is Shavuos the shortest physically of the three Torah Yamim Tovim; one day as opposed to seven or eight. Furthermore, there are hardly any laws of Shavuos in the Shulchan Aruch - it has one siman only, compared to the 55 or so of Pesach. And whilst there is a masechta Pesachim, Sukkah, Megillah, there is no masechta about Shavuos. Also, what exactly is the name ‘Shavuos’ (‘weeks’); I can understand Pesach for HaShem passed-over the houses, and Sukkos because that‘s what we sit in/commemorate then, but ‘Shavuos;’ why are we naming a festival after the Omer weeks building up to the day of the festival as opposed to the festival day itself? And to top it all off, it’s not even so clear what we are celebrating; we celebrate Shavuos on the 6th of Sivan, whilst several opinions maintain that Mattan Torah did not take place until the 7th. And even according to the opinions that it was the 6th, we sinned with the golden calf, and did not receive the Torah until forgiveness had been fully granted on the following Yom Kippur. In short, why exactly is Shavuos so small? And what are we really celebrating? The essence of each Yom Tov is encapsulated by the way we refer to it in the Tefillah (R’ Pinkus). Thus, Pesach is ‘zman cheruseinu’ because its essence is that we became free, Sukkos is ‘zman simchaseinu’ because it’s the time of simcha. And Shavuos has a longer description and that is ‘zman mattan Toraseinu.’ In order to explain Shavuos, there are two points to understand - ’mattan’ and ‘toraseinu.’
I remember once being told by Rabbi Speyer that on Shavuos we celebrate not the receiving of the Torah (that was on Yom Kippur), but the giving of the Torah; hence the phrase Mattan Toraseinu. The gemarra (Shabbes 146a) says that when we stood at Har Sinai ‘the sweat, that started when the serpent enticed Chavah, stopped.’ At a simple level this means that at Har Sinai we reached a sin-free spiritual level. This might also be behind the medrash that HaShem cured all the ill, blind etc of Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai, because we have a teaching that (‘mibsari echzeh eloka’) our physical bodies reflect the spiritual; thus at a time when we were spiritually near-perfect, so too were our physical sides perfected. The point is that we celebrate the fact that we were ready to be given the Torah - hence the words zman mattan toraseinu, because it’s the giving that we celebrate, but not the receiving. And this is why we do ‘tikkun leil’ by the way - pirkei d’rebbi eiliezer says it is because on the day of Mattan Torah, Bnei Yisrael slept two hours into the day and HaShem woke them up to receive the Torah. So we stay up all night learning to show that we are ready and prepared for Mattan Torah. In fact, maybe this is an explanation for the name Shavuos too; because it is a celebration of the culmination of the previous weeks’ effort in refining oneself and the self-preparation for being able to receive the Torah as opposed to the single event itself.
Let’s move on to the second part; ‘Toraseinu.’ This means that it’s ‘our Torah.’ Now the concept is not so simple; we know that ‘Toras HaShem Temimah’ (the torah of HaShem is perfect’) yet here we call it our Torah. (and there are plenty of other sources which deepen this contradiction). Maybe to answer this one can bring Rashi (Kiddushin 32b ‘uvesoraso’) who says that the Torah belongs to HaShem until one learns it [ie really makes a connection with it], and then it is called our Torah. Thus, we see that ‘Torasienu’ is the time where we made a commitment to Torah and it could become ‘our Torah.’
The two parts ‘mattan’ and ‘Torateinu’ are not independent; they go together (they are put in one phrase)… The Maharal points out that the way one connects to the non-physical Torah is to make oneself non-physical; meaning not to be held down by the physical world (bear in mind what we mentioned last time; using the physical world for elevation in the Service of HaShem is different). This is closely related to Taanis (7a) which compares Torah to water in that just as water only flows from a high place to a low place, so too does Torah only flow to one who has the trait of anavah - humility. The Torah was given via Moshe’s mouth; he was the humblest of all people. And anavah does not mean the denial of one’s talents, it means the negation of the self-ego and recognition of one’s Source in using one‘s talents to serve Him. Thus (as we pointed out last time) Shavuos is the time where everything is used to serve HaShem - even the chametz. At Mattan Torah, therefore, we mastered the trait of anavah - we merged into ‘one body with one heart’ - each was willing to forego their ego to become one of a whole, and thus we were on the level to really connect with Torah, and for it to be called ‘our Torah.’
And this is why Shavuos is so small. Shavuos is the Bar Mitzvah of the Bnei Yisrael (R’ Pinkus), when we are called up to the Torah. Now anavah has the dichotomy that one becomes so small yet has such great effect when one has anavah. This is because anavah means the negation of any borders that are imposed on you; if there is no ‘me ego,’ I am limitless and thus have the widest span. With all this we can begin to understand why Shavuos is so small; because we are celebrating and reliving our anavah in our readiness to receive our Torah, and just like anavah is when one becomes so small, yet so big and has the greatest and most-widespread effect, so does Shavuos mirror this pattern of smallness with great effects.
Have a great Shavuos,

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