Shavuot: Why The Torah?
At the core of every human being lies the quest to discover its purpose. This search for meaning is the underlying subconscious driver in our lives.
Most of us seek quick solutions to alleviate this constant yearning for purpose. However, because they are inevitably limited in both scope and time, the search for meaning continues unabated.
In order to satisfy this profound yearning we must first discover its origin, i.e. our core identity.
As Jews we believe that the essence of our being is the soul, which is an actual part of G-d. This divine energy animates every part of our existence. It serves as our moral compass, enabling us to successfully navigate the tricky terrain that is an inevitable part of life.
Additionally, the soul through its intimate connection with G-d, is aware of its purpose and function in this world. Consequently, it always endeavours
to remind us to align our values and performance with our mission.
There were two primary events in the formation of the Jews as a people. On Passover we commemorate ‘freedom:’ the moment the Jewish people were liberated from tyranny. Only after this can our journey begin.
However, freedom without a framework or purpose leads to chaos and anarchy. This is why the festival of Passover is seen as intrinsically connected to the festival of Shavuot. They are indeed two sides of the same coin. It is Shavuot that provides the structure and purpose which makes genuine freedom possible.
But what is the purpose of the revelation at Mount Sinai? Why did G-d give the Jewish people the Torah and it’s commandments? What problem was He looking to solve?
The Midrash provides a simple answer: “The mitzvot were given so that man might be refined by them”.
Simple but not easy. It’s all about becoming a better person through refinement of character. This is what it means to be Jewish. It’s about making the world a better place. This can only be achieved by first becoming a ‘mentch’. There are no shortcuts.
How does one refine their character?
The answer again is simple but not easy.
In every situation where there is tension or conflict, one must transcend the narrow interest of each party and seek a course which serves both. A win-lose strategy is at best a short term solution. And In truth there are no winners in the long term either.
By looking for the win-win in every situation we are transcending our selfish impulses. This is the process by which we refine our character.
The Torah is the ultimate guide, enabling us to discover the win-win strategy in every situation.