Shavuot – What’s the Point?

By Rabbi Dovid Markel


The 6th of Sivan commemorates the giving of the Torah to the people of Israel. What is curious though, is that the Talmud (Yuma 28b) states, “Our ancestors were never left without the Yeshivah (academy,)” and “Our father Abraham kept the whole Torah.”

That being the case, what indeed was accomplished through the giving of the Torah?

What exacerbates this question is the Talmudic statement (Eiruivin 100b), “If the Torah had not been given we could have learnt modesty from the cat, honesty from the ant, chastity from the dove etc.” Additionally, the Talmud states (Yuma 67b) concerning the commandments “idolatry, immorality, bloodshed, robbery and blasphemy,” that “if they were not written [in Scripture], they should by right have been written.”

This insinuates that there is no novelty in these laws, as human logic would have understood them on its own. Why then, was it specifically these commandments, which are seemingly superfluous, that are expressed in the Decalogue?!

In truth, however, it is specifically within these commandments that the ultimate goal of the fulfillment of Torah in this world is expressed.

Generally, we define religious experience as the actions that we perform to develop our relationship with the Almighty, but exclude those actions that we perform as civil or moral duties.

However, G-d desired that an individual should not have two spheres of existence but one. Every action that a person does is to be, not merely human action, but expressive of G-dliness.

That religious actions are connected to G-d is obvious. The radical paradigm shift of the Giving of the Torah is that even the most mundane of things are expressive of a G-dly command and hence bridge the chasm between the finite mortal and an infinite G-d-expressing a deep spirituality in the most mundane of actions.

May our every action and indeed the whole world be permeated with the ultimate revelation of G-dliness with the coming of Moshiach-now!

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