25 May Shavuos – What Does It Mean to Me?
In our Shavuos liturgy, we refer to Shavuos as, “Zman matan Toroseinu – The season of the giving of the Torah.” We also express the wish to people, “You should be mkabeil, accept, the Torah with ahava, love.” This is confusing! Are we not already learning before Shavuos? Aren’t we studying the same Daf Hayomi on Erev Shavuos as on Shavuos itself? What exactly are we doing extra on Shavuos?
Obviously, Shavuos, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, is a time to reevaluate our commitment to the Torah and strengthen our efforts and dedication to this most important pursuit of our lives. In this way, Shavuos is very similar to a wedding anniversary when we rededicate ourselves to pay more attention to our mate.
We might start with an examination of our kvias itim l’Torah, our fixed study times for learning. The Gemora in Shabbos [40a] teaches us that when we go up to heaven, Hashem will ask us initially four basic questions. Did we do business with integrity? Did we make fixed times for our Torah study? Did we try to have a family? Did we hope for Mashiach? The Gemora is forewarning us that we will have to answer to Hashem whether we built fixed study times into our daily regimen. We will not be able to answer I thought that was only when I was in school. Nor will we be able to wiggle out of it by saying I had a family I had to work, etc. Every Jewish male is expected to have fixed study periods daily. Going to a shiur once or twice a week just doesn’t cut it. Kvias itim means fixing a regular study period that is carved out in the daily budget. Many people, serious about this important concern do it early in the morning, before davening, when there are no outside disturbances. Others who do not wake up easily set it right after davening, before they get busy with the vicissitudes of life. Yet others use a chunk of their lunch time for their daily dosage of learning.
However this is still not enough. Even if you have an hour Daf Yomi every morning, you still cannot answer in the affirmative to the Divine question, “Kavata itim l’Tora?” for the requirement is to have set study times once in the day and once in the night. As we are commanded, “V’hagisa bah yomam v’laila – You should meditate in the Torah both day and night.” Some people try to cut corners by learning between mincha and maariv, thus straddling both day and night. But this is taking the cheap way out. We should reevaluate our daily budget of time and carve out from the daily ‘pie’ two nice slices of time, one in the day and one in the night, to spend doing that which we were created for. As we learn in the beginning of the Torah, “Breishis bara Elokim – In the beginning Hashem created,” and Rashi explains, “Bishvil Torah shenikra reishis – Because of the Torah (we were created) which is called reishis.”
Perhaps we might supplement our Daf Yomi with a daily regimen of reviewing the weekly parsha. Or we might complement our Mishna Yomis with a Dirshu schedule. Or we might add to our Chumash review, the study of our Tefillos or the learning of Tehillim. Perhaps a course of Mussar study might be added to our daily learning schedule. Listening to Torah tapes such as Rav Miller or Rav Reisman, or even Rav Weiss, can count in this equation. For some learning b’iyun, in depth, will light the fire of Torah in our lives.
One of the ways to galvanize our Torah output is to join a shiur, a lecture. Belonging to a group is a great way to ensure that you won’t slack off. Furthermore, having a Rebbi will make it easier to learn when you are tired or preoccupied. The Rebbi will also stay after you that you shouldn’t fall out. For some a chavrusa does wonders. For certain people, having to work out the learning instead of getting it spoon fed is very rewarding and helps them to remember it better. Usually a mixture of a shiur and a chavrusa is the best of both worlds.
Shavuos is also a good time to assess how we spend our time on Shabbos. Hashem gives us a neshoma ysaira, a souped-up soul on Shabbos. The Shl”a HaKadosh, zt”l, zy”a, says that we are given more soul on Shabbos so that the soul will overwhelm the body, its counterpart, and allow us to dedicate ourselves more to spiritual pursuits on Shabbos. We are also taught that Shabbos is the litmus test to determine whether we would really like to spend more time learning throughout the week. We will tell Hashem, after 120 years, that we didn’t learn more during the week because we had to make a living. So Hashem tests us with Shabbos. If he sees that on Shabbos we learn more because we don’t have to work, then are claim is accepted. But, if on Shabbos all we do is eat and sleep, then our weekday defense rings hollow.
May we utilize this Shavuos to jumpstart a revitalized career of daily Torah study. In that merit, may Hashem grant us a great Shavuos and Torah blessing for good health, happiness, and everything wonderful!
Please learn and daven for the refuah sheleima of Miriam Liba bas Devorah, b’soch shaar cholei Yisroel.