In another few days, we will be celebrating THE event which is the purpose of Creation — the reason, as it were, of Hashem bringing into being, even if only in our perception, something, anything, other than Himself. It was, and remains, an incredible act of chessed, designed with the objective of “giving” the Torah, the embodiment of G-dliness, to the lowest sphere of that Creation (that’s us — a cheerful thought to pick you up!), and to have the people therein choose to live their lives according to that expression of spirituality, thus enabling them, and along with them, all of Creation, to ultimately bond, indeed meld, with G-d Himself.
How do we relate to the act of Hashem’s giving the Torah? Although we proclaim Zman Matan Toraseinu as we celebrate Shavuos, it seems (by there being no mention in the Torah of the date of the giving of the Torah, and no mention of this aspect of Shavuos when that chag is discussed there) as if Hashem did not want us focusing on any particular day as THE day that Torah was given.
But listen to the words of the Torah about remembering and recalling the giving of the Torah (Devorim 4:9). “Only be cautious, and beware for your soul, very much so (me’od), lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen and lest they be removed from your heart all the days of your life… and you shall make them known to your children and to your children’s children… the day that you stood before Hashem at Chorev (Har Sinai) when Hashem said to me, ‘Gather the people to me and I shall let them hear My words, so that they learn to fear Me… and they shall teach it to their chidren.’”
These are powerful words, words that unfortunately do not stick in our minds when we listen to them in shul, words that are not as familiar to us as, say, Krias Shema is, or even the Aseres Hadibros themselves. But when you think about how much time and enegy we direct towards remembering Yetzias Mitzrayim, and telling that story to our children, and you compare the words of this possuk to that — Be cautious! Beware! Very much! Lest you forget! Lest they be removed! All the days of your life! Make them known… children, children’s children… One wonders why not.
I am not going to write a halachic column about the possible technical obligation to remember Matan Torah, perhaps even every day, and the apparent obligation to tell it to one’s children. Nevertheless, Shavuos approaches, and we do use the Yom Tov to commemorate Matan Torah, and so let us endeavor to understand what the simple meaning of the possuk is telling us, and what we are supposed to be teaching our children.
The Ramban elaborates on this. In Devarim 4:9, Ramban writes, “These verses are a negative commandment (a lo ta’aseh)” — and Ramban counts it as such in his list of lo ta’asehs that the Rambam “left out ” — “Moshe Rabbeinu is saying, remember from where these commandments came to you… do not forget the assembly at Har Sinai, the thunder, the flames, Hashem’s revealed Glory.” It is crucial to remember where and how we received the Torah! Ramban continues, “And you must pass this on to all your generations, so that you shall learn to fear G-d for all generations… Before mentioning the Aseres Hadibros, Moshe gives a warning that we are not to forget anything of that assembly and we must make it known to our descendants… from generation to generation.
Ramban goes on to explain: We must always connect the Torah to its Giver. The Torah is G-dly; it was transmitted to us directly from Hakadosh Baruch Hu, with absolutely no intermediary. Thus, no one will even be able to change Torah even one iota, claiming a revelation from Hashem. No one will ever be able to explain that times have changed, circumstances have changed, situations have changed. We recall vividly, and transmit to our children, G-d’s spoken words directly to us, and realize how unchanging those words are, how eternal, fixed, and immutable.
But it goes much deeper. The possuk talks about fear of G-d, and teaching our children to fear G-d.
Do you ever feel that in the hustle and bustle of daily life, even of daily frum life, we get so caught up in our obligations, in the dos and the don’ts, in the rituals, the routine, the protocols, that we barely eke out a thought of the Giver of Torah and our connection to Him. When you do a mitzvah, do you think of Hashem? When you learn Torah, do you stop to consider that you are connecting to its Giver? When I read a novel written by an author, I have no connection to him. When I follow an instruction booklet, do I feel an affinity to the writer?
We have the Torah. It “works.” It has stood us in good stead for all these generations. I learn three hours a day, I keep all the mitzvos, I sing zemiros on Shabbos, I try not to talk lashon hora, I try to be a ba’al or ba’alas chessed, I am frum, really frum, I am Chareidi, for goodness sake…
Ahh, for goodness sake, indeed! What about for G-d’s sake?! Where is G-d? What is the point of it all? What, who, am I doing this for? NOT because I am obligated to (though I am), NOT because I want to go to my eternal reward (though I will), NOT because of fear of punishment (though that will come, surely).
I do this because it was Hashem who gave us the Torah. Hashem said, this is your connection to Me! You are bonding and relating to G-d, Creator and Master of the entire Creation and He, in His incomparable love, gave us that connection. So it is not enough to say we have the Torah, we keep the Torah, we learn the Torah We must remember ma’amad Har Sinai, the GIVING, the thunder, flames, and smoke. We experienced Hashem! And beware lest you forget that, lest you turn Judaism into a ritual-laden “religion.” People, frum people, can go for days, weeks, months, years! without considering or thinking about Hashem, without mentioning His name!
Never forget Har Sinai, how Hashem was there, giving us a “piece” of Himself. And when we do the mitzvos, and learn the Torah, please think of Him, for that is the sole purpose of it all.