“Every year on Shavuos we stand at Har Sinai and accept the Torah anew,” states the Korban Ha’eidah.
Surely we cannot choose not to accept the Torah now, more than 3,000 years after receiving it at Har Sinai. So, what does it mean to accept the Torah anew?
Shimon was looking for a business partner to join him in an exciting new venture. He approached Zevulun and asked him if he would be interested.
“A new venture? Of course!” responded Zevulun. So they sat down together and Shimon outlined his plan. Zevulun agreed to share the initial investment and they would split the profits equally.
Shimon made all the necessary contacts and soon his business was thriving.
The strange thing was that, after Shimon received the money from Zevulun, he was never able to get in touch with him again. But he shrugged it off and continued running the business on his own.
After a first successful month, Shimon compiled a report and wanted to show it to Zevulun. He was sure that Zevulun would at least make time to take a look at it.
But Zevulun rejected him again. “Sorry, too busy,” was his excuse.
A while later Shimon faced a crisis. A supplier went bankrupt suddenly, leaving him with hundreds of orders left unfulfilled.
Panicking, Shimon tried desperately to contact Zevulun, calling his cellphone and emailing him. He even went over to his house to try to speak with him.
But to no avail; Zevulun had completely cut off ties.
Left with no choice, Shimon worked day and night until he managed to resolve his business difficulties. Meanwhile, there was still no word from Zevulun.
At this point Shimon gave up trying to reach Zevulun and acted as if he had no partner in the business at all.
At the end of the first year, it was clear that Shimon was doing well. He had gotten off to a good start and his successes were only increasing.
Then one day he received a call from the head of the Institute for Business Development. “We have observed your business from the start and wish to honor you with our special award for your achievements,” the executive said cheerfully. “It will be presented to you at our AGM for business executives to be held next month at the Hilton Hotel. Please prepare a short speech about your experience. …”
Shimon could not believe his ears! He had been chosen for this exclusive award?
He toiled over the speech he would deliver at the gathering, sweating with nervousness and hope that it would be a masterpiece. He practiced it many times until he felt confident he could deliver it well.
Finally the big day arrived. Shimon was chauffeur-driven to the hotel where he was greeted as a real celebrity. At first he was overwhelmed by all the attention, but he quickly got used to it and played his part well.
He stood on stage and presented a powerful speech, describing his expertise and the techniques he developed that led to such success. When he finished he received a standing ovation. Shimon was exultant.
“What an evening this has been!” he relished to himself.
Until he received a phone call.
“Hello Shimon,” began the man on the other end of the line.
The voice sounded familiar but Shimon couldn’t place it yet.
“Shimon, I heard you get a mazel tov.”
Now he realized to whom he was speaking.
Shimon felt weak. It was Zevulun and he was calling about the award.
“First you make a partnership with me and then you take all the honor and glory of the business success for yourself!” Zevulun said angrily. “Nice award. Nice speech. But to leave your own partner out of it all!”
Striving to maintain his composure, Shimon found the words to answer Zevulun: “You call this a partnership? You are not my partner!”
“What? What do you mean?” Zevulun reacted with surprise.”Of course I’m your partner! We made an agreement from the beginning and I paid my share!”
“Zevulun,” said Shimon, “You never cared about the business, like a normal partner does. You never had time for me, like a normal partner does. Nothing ever meant anything to you — not the gains nor the losses.” By now Shimon was nearly in tears. “You don’t deserve the honor of being a partner in this business.”
We too have a partnership: It is with Hashem and with the Torah. We agreed to be partners when we accepted the Torah at Har Sinai. Once we accepted it, there was no going back.
Every year, on Shavuos, we have the opportunity to show how much we care, how interested we are in our partnership. We are given the chance to receive the Torah anew — to accept it and to appreciate it as our chosen way of life. We have the opportunity to rededicate ourselves, and to improve our keeping of the Torah.
If we show ourselves to be worthy partners, then the time will come when we will be able to bask in the light of the honor shown to Hashem.
Or we could end up on the sidelines, craning our necks, trying to be part of it.
It depends on how interested we are in the partnership.
It depends on our choice on Shavuos.
Do we want the Torah or do we not want the Torah?
Klal Yisrael has the minhag to stay up all night on Shavuos learning. This shows Hashem that it means so much to us to have the Torah that we are prepared to lose sleep over it.
A Holocaust survivor was recently asked the question:“How were you able to keep the Torah and mitzvos during the Holocaust, with all the pain, the destruction and the loss?”
The survivor looked the questioner in the eye: “Just as blood flows through our veins, Yiddishkeit flows through our body. We did not want to let go.”
This year, on Shavuos, it is our chance to say the same.
Rabbi Goldberg learned in Yeshivas Mir, Yerushalyim and is also a talmid of Harav Tzvi Kushlevski.