Pinny Arnon

Shavuos: The Lifting of The Veil

Photo by benjamin lehman on Unsplash

Shavuos is not merely the anniversary of the day 3336 years ago when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai. The Sages teach that every year on this date, we receive the Torah anew. In this sense, Shavuos is far more relevant and immediate than if it were merely the commemoration of a distant historic event. But what does it mean to receive the Torah? What was the world-changing significance of this event nearly three and half millennia ago, and what does it signify for every one of us today?

If Torah is simply a book of laws, stories, and wisdom, then it is difficult to understand how its reception is repeated annually. But Torah is far more than this. Torah is more of a relationship than a book. It is the marriage contract, so to speak, between each of us and G-d. Shavuos is therefore characterized as our wedding day, and indeed in Midrash it is said that G-d held Mount Sinai above us like a “chuppah/marriage canopy” when he gave us the Torah, and the Torah itself is compared to the “ketubah/marital contract” that a husband presents to his bride upon their marriage.

The Rabbis teach that a wedding is not simply the connection of two distinct individuals. It is, rather, the reuniting of two parts of a single entity which had temporarily seemed to be separate. Shavuos is therefore this moment when we become fully aware of our complete unity with G-d. And each year, on the date of our original “wedding,” it is not simply our anniversary in the sense of a commemoration of our nuptials, it is not even merely a renewal of our vows, but it is the actual recurrence of the matrimony every year. We are not only reenacting our wedding day annually, we are literally getting married once again.

To drive this point home, imagine if a couple on their wedding anniversary determined that the absolute fusion of their souls had not yet been realized or consummated, and therefore their wedding would need to be repeated so that they could once again commit to one another completely and exclusively. It’s not that they had been unfaithful with extramarital affairs, or even that their relationship had been on the rocks. But in recognition of the extent to which their consciousness had not been perfectly aligned, the extent to which they had each occasionally felt themselves to be individual and distinct, they recognized the opportunity – and indeed the urgency – to be wed even more authentically than they had been until now. They therefore rent a hall, convene their loved ones, and perform the entire wedding as they had done previously. What is it that brings them to this realization and this desire for a deeper commitment? It is the energetic flow into the universe on this day of the same transcendent energy that was introduced and infused on their first wedding day.

On the first Shavuos, G-d had imbued us with a level of His light that the world had not known since its creation. Just as the groom lifts the bridal veil to reveal the bride’s formerly hidden face, G-d disrobed us at Mount Sinai, so to speak, removing all of the veils that conceal us, and exposing the naked truth of our G-dly essence. At that point, our union was not the fusion of two distinct beings, but the fading of the illusion that we were ever anything other than One.

Every year on Shavuos, this energy once again flows into the universe. The canopy is once again suspended above us, the “ketubah” is once again prepared and delivered, the vows are once again declared and enacted, and the heavens once again open as G-d lifts the bridal veil to reveal our hidden face. Shavuos is not only the commemoration of divine communication and revelation, it is the time when G-d provides us – through His Torah – the ability to explicitly recognize His presence within our innermost core, and thereby to understand what we truly and ultimately are.

This experience is available to us at all times when we plumb the Torah’s depths. It is for this reason that every morning when we recite the blessings over the Torah, we use the present tense: Baruch attah A-donai nosein haTorah/Blessed are You, G-d, Who gives the Torah. We do not say “who gave the Torah,” but rather “who gives” it currently and constantly. Torah presents us a divine wisdom and a detailed practice that enables us to open ourselves and penetrate to our G-dly essence every day and every moment of our life.

– Excerpted from Pnei Hashem, an introduction to the deepest depths of the human experience based on the esoteric teachings of Torah.

About the Author
Pinny Arnon is an award-winning writer in the secular world who was introduced to the wellsprings of Torah as a young adult. After decades of study and frequent interaction with some of the most renowned Rabbis of the generation, Arnon has been encouraged to focus his clear and incisive writing style on the explication of the inner depths of Torah.
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