On Shavuos we commemorate our receiving the Torah from Hashem at Har Sinai, however, the holiday is not just about the past. Chazal teach us that each Shavuos we are actually re-accepting the Torah on ourselves! Therefore, we must prepare for this in the proper way. In order to prepare ourselves for a real acceptance of the Torah, let’s go through in short what actions we must take in order to be ready to accept the Torah.
The Sichos Mussar explains that when Bnei Yisrael came to Har Sinai, there were three things they needed to work on before they could accept the Torah; these three things are what we need as well to accomplish for our own acceptance.
The first principle is to strengthen our will in learning Torah. We see many instances in our history of individuals who have embodied this principle, starting with Yaakov Avinu and the fourteen straight years he spent learning in the Yeshiva of Shem and Aver. It is important to note that this principle is not just a virtue of learning, but a prerequisite to being able to accept completely the yoke of Torah upon ourselves.
The second principle is to use the trait of humility. Chazal teach us that the reason the Torah was given in the desert was to show Bnei Yisrael that Torah does not truly take hold of a person unless they lower themselves and treat themselves like a desert. Just as a desert does not have much to show off to others, so too we should not act as if we have what to show off. The most famous set of arguing Tannaim in the Mishna are the schools of Hillel and Shamai. In terms of deciding the halacha, we decide like Hillel besides for only a handful of cases where we decide like Shamai. The Gemarah in Eiruvin (13b) says that the reason for this is because when they taught the lesson in the school of Hillel, first they would say what Shamai taught, and only then would they say over what they learned from Hillel. Because of this show of humility, they merited that the halacha should be like them.
The final principle to accepting the Torah is the unity of Bnei Yisrael. The pasuk says by the giving of the Torah, “ וַיִּחַן שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל נֶגֶד הָהָר ” “And Yisrael camped there opposite the mountain” (Shemos 19:2). The pasuk uses the language of a singular individual to describe the encampment of the entire nation to signify that they were all united together. The medrash teaches us that upon seeing this strength of unity, Hashem decided that right then was the time to give Bnei Yisrael the Torah.
The Arizal teaches us that on Shavuos we are judged on how much of a desire for Torah we will have over the next year. Rav Aharon Kotler explains that we must treat this day like Rosh Hashanah in the sense that just like on Rosh Hashanah it’s not enough to do teshuvah, rather we must also take upon ourselves certain actions to do throughout the year in order to establish ourselves as good people. So too on Shavuos we must take certain actions in order to show how much we really desire to make the Torah a part of our lives. By using these three principles, we can begin the process for becoming true acceptors of the Torah and make it an even stronger part of our lives.
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