This past Sunday, exactly 3,330 years ago, G-d addressed our ancestors whom He had brought out of Egypt and told them, in the ‘voice of G-d,’ the first two of the Ten Commandments.
This event, which they all experienced, changed us from a family of tribes into the Jewish nation. Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah, was a magnitude of revelation of G-d that never happened before or since. Here we learned that G-d cares and is involved in what we do. G-d has a plan to make this physical world a place which is elevated, where we learn how to stay connected with G-d in our daily lives. The Torah teaches us how to fulfill our purpose here in the world.
The first two commandments that everyone heard directly from G-d, are the distilled truth which G-d expanded on through the whole Torah. “I am the L-rd Your G-d Who took you out of the land of Egypt.” This first commandment tells us that there is One G-d who is always with us and involved in our lives. This is the G-d who was in Egypt with the people even in their slavery and brought them out with the purpose of bringing them to Mt. Sinai to teach them the Torah. Through this Torah, the people would learn how to live in the way that would fulfill G-d’s Plan.
The second commandment said, “You should have no other gods beside Me…” This explicitly forbids idol worship. It also means that there is only One G-d who has power over us. We are not to imagine that our boss or any other person in our life controls us. This commandment guides us not to be sidetracked into thinking that there is a world and there is a god. The one G-d is the reality of the world, enlivening us anew every moment and continually renewing His creation. G-d is the One Who is the Master of the world. This commandment strengthens the first, telling us to fear nothing, recognizing that G-d is the One Who is with us and bringing us forward.
Our work is to receive the Torah. Before Shavuot 3,330 years ago, our people gathered at Mt. Sinai readying themselves to meet G-d. Together they proclaimed “naaseh v’nishma,” “we will do and we will understand.” The people dedicated themselves to receiving the Torah that G-d would give even before they knew what it was. First they committed to do as G-d guided them. They knew that G-d’s teaching is beyond them yet they would do as instructed and then they would make every effort to learn Torah in order to understand it. But they knew that their connection with the Torah was a union, like a marriage, between G-d and the Jewish people. They wanted this connection and made their commitment in advance.
Every Shavuot, G-d gives us a new level of revelation. Our work is to commit ourselves to absorbing the Torah and mitzvahs through renewed dedication. For each of us, the Torah is to be learned as new. G-d gives but it is up to us to receive. When G-d’s giving and our receiving come together, we connect more deeply with G-d’s Essence. Then we are able to awaken the world to know that the One G-d is always here to be found.
by Chana Rachel Schusterman
Spiritual Teacher, Counselor and Public Speaker