Starting from the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu, we have been waiting for one scene. We sat through shul listening to Moshe’s upbringing, his realization that he is destined to save the Jewish people, the systematic process of redemption, and so and and so forth. But the truth is, this was all just a build up to the main event (it’s kind of like how the NFL regular season was just a build up to the Super Bowl). Finally, on Shabbat morning we will listen to the recitation of God giving us the Torah. Just by reading the text, one can only imagine what the scene was like. In addition to hearing God’s voice, they saw thunder, heard lightning, etc. The vivid imagery in the narrative is beautiful and very moving but let’s not forget the connection forged that will never be severed. Every morning in Birkat HaTorah, we bless “That Hashem chose us from all the nations and gave us the Torah”. We should be so fortunate that we have the capability of connecting to Hashem, and it all stemmed from this single event.
As I read through the parasha, a certain comment by Rashi caught my attention. In the moments leading up to Matan Torah, “Moshe brought the people out toward God from the camp” (Shemot 19:17). Rashi notes,
“[This] tells [us] that the Shechina [Divine Presence] came out toward them like a bridegroom going out toward a bride. This is [the meaning of] what is stated: ‘The Lord came from Sinai’ (Devarim 33:20), and it does not say ‘came to Sinai’”.
The fact that God was waiting for us is a novel idea on its own but Rashi’s observation is quite similar to a line we say every friday night. In Lecha Dodi, we sing,
Come out my Beloved, the Bride to meet;
The inner light of Shabbat, let us greet.
Over you Your G-d will rejoice,
As a groom exults in his bride of choice. (Chabad Site)
The simple explanation is that just as Hashem acted as the groom when giving the Torah, so too on Shabbat Hashem comes to greet us. But why the connection? What can we learn from the fact that Matan Torah and Shabbat share this commonality?
I would like to suggest an answer that might portray our relationship to God in a new light. Shabbat is a day like no other. Some naturally think that Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year as many Jews who don’t keep Shabbat observe Yom Kippur. Everyone feels a connection to it. However, I believe it was Rav Pinkus who pointed out that Shabbat must be more holy because we need it every week. Without Shabbat every single Saturday, we would be devoid of much spirituality, as it stems from Shabbat. With that said, Shabbat is unique because we form a close connection to God. Instead of reaching up to God and falling just short, we meet halfway. In fact, Hashem is reaching down to us! “As a groom exults in his bride of choice”. We develop this relationship that is indescribable. It is a day to rejoice, a day of happiness. It is a time when we forget about everything else, as it says in the Aseret Hadibrot that on Shabbat “you shall not do any work” (ibid. 20:10). Rashi clarifies that “it should seem to you as if all your work is done”. In other words, Shabbat is just me and God together.
“They saw thunder, heard lightning, etc. The vivid imagery in the narrative is beautiful and very moving but let’s not forget the connection forged that will never be severed.”
Torah constructs the same exact bond as Shabbat does. When we delve into the world of Torah, we are telling Hashem that we want Him. We are expressing our desire to be with Him. Learning Torah is an intimate moment with God, which there is none like it. One can argue that he or she can create the same feeling with a spouse but that’s not a contradiction. Rashi says that when Hashem gave us the Torah, He was “like a bridegroom who goes out to greet his bride”.
Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l explains that the reason the Torah was given in the middle of a barren desert was so that we perceive ourselves as alone in the world serving Hashem, as if there is no one else. When we feel that toil in the Torah and mitzvot are incumbent upon only us, then we serve the Creator with a full heart and a desirous soul. Rav Eliyahu continues to extrapolate that this is why the Torah says in singular form “Israel encamped opposite the mountain”, right before they received the Torah. This is why the Aseret Hadibrot themselves are written in singular. It’s to teach us that each and everyone of us should feel a special relationship to the Torah and Hashem.
Now that we comprehend the significance of Shabbat and the Torah, we can understand the connection. The rabbis talk about how Shabbat affects the rest of the week, which really is the rest of our lives. When we celebrate Shabbat in a holy or spiritual way, that spirituality is drawn out and used for the rest of the week. In other words, although Hashem waits for us specifically on Shabbat, we still benefit from that forged relationship during the rest of the week.
So too with Torah. Torah is accessible anytime anywhere. Whether we are part of a kollel and learn all day, or we spend 16 hour days working in a major law firm, Torah is always available. But in a deeper sense, Hashem is always there. Hashem is always calling out for us to go to Him. He wants to greet us. My roommate, Reb Elliot Gerson, noted that several times in the Torah Rashi describes a verse as if it’s saying to the reader, “expound me!” Similarly, the Torah and God are calling out to us, “come learn me!” and “come serve me!”
Hashem wants us to be close to Him. He wants us to desire Him. He wouldn’t have given us Shabbat every week nor given us the readily accessible Torah if he didn’t. When Hashem told over the first two commandments, Bnei Yisrael freaked out. Hashem’s voice was too powerful for them so they were terrified. “But Moshe said to the people, ‘Fear not, for God has come in order to exalt you, and in order that His awe shall be upon your faces, so that you shall not sin’” (ibid. 17). At times, we may feel that God’s desire to be close to us is a little daunting. His powers are all encompassing so we may be a little scared. Rashi explains this verse to teach that God comes to “magnify you in the world, so that your name should circulate among the nations, that He in His glory revealed Himself to you”. Obviously, there is nothing to be concerned about.
May God bless us that we take advantage of the amazing opportunity He gives us to cleave to Him and that we fulfill Rashi’s words on Matan Torah that “by way of the fact that you saw that He is feared and dreaded, you will know that there is none beside Him and you will fear Him.” Amen!