Shavuot: The True Acceptance of Torah

5 06 2011
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Yitchak Cohen

Shavuot: True Acceptance of Torah  

The common denominator of the Shalosh Regalim is that there is a commandment to be joyous on each of the holidays. What does the Torah mean to be b’simcha? The Gemara in Pesachim notes that there is a disagreement between Rav Yehoshua and Rav Elazar in understanding the two verses, “Atzeret tehiye l’Hashem Elokecha” and “Atzeret tiyehe lachem.” One verse means that the holiday should be spiritual and the other verse tells us to rejoice with physical pleasures. Rav Eliezer says there is a choice on how to fulfill the mitzvah of simcha on Yom Tov. Either one can devote time to tefilah and limud hatorah or to physical enjoyment. Rav Yehoshua says Chetzi l’Hashem v’chetzi lachem-divide the day between the two pleasures. However the Gemara says this disagreement doesn’t apply to all the holidays.


Regarding Shavuot all opinions agree, “Chetzi l’chem v’chetzi l’Hashem.” It needs both aspects. One would think that Shavuot would be a day to devote more time to Torah and tefilah because it is the anniversary of the day when the Torah was given. Yet this day must also have “lachem,” it must be experienced physically. This teaches us that the Torah wasn’t given to us as a means of restricting, obligating, or restraining us from worldly pleasures. Rather in Birchat Hatorah, we ask Hashem, “Vaherev na..”-make it sweet, make it something that we will enjoy. The Kli Yakar writes on the verse, “Vehikravtem mincha chadasha.” Every day a person should have a tremendous desire for Torah as if he had just received it the first time. There should be a fresh newness and joy when studying Torah. “V’samchta l”hashem Elokecha“-your whole body should be b’simcha when learning Torah as if sampling a delectable new dish. This is the koach of Torah, the pleasure it can give a person.


Why is Torah called Torat Emet? Is there another Torah which is false? Torah is not about living for oneself or losing oneself in physical pleasures. It is Hashem’s instructions on how to live. If we follow its precise directions, we will perceive the world with a different perspective. Indeed it is only through Torah that we can come to see the truth of life. 




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