Imagine coming to a wedding of a rich friend. The hall is adorned with fragrant flowers; the pleasant aroma fills the air, whilst the live band sets the scene. As you enter the hall you envisage a large free bar, with all the latest cocktails and best whiskeys. You make your way to your designated place, looking forwards to take part and enjoy this remarkable meal and experience. Yet when you arrive you find that there are no plates or glasses set at your table.
The place is full and the waiters excuse themselves by telling you that there are no more plates or glasses left.
All that food, all that drink, it’s within reach, but there is no way for you to enjoy. How are you going to eat and drink without vessels? This becomes a nightmare not a celebration. How do you feel?
The greatest gift that G-d gave is the ability to give. But in order to give, there must be a taker. Someone has to be there to receive. And in order to receive G-d’s abundance of blessings we need to make ourselves into a vessel that can receive.
Three thousand three hundred and thirty seven years ago, G-d gave us the best and most prestigious gift – the Torah.
When the nations of the world heard the powerful and frightening noises at the time of Matan Torah, the Gemara in Zevachim (116a) says that they ran to Bilam and asked him “Hashem LaMabul Yashav”, (Tehilim 29) is Hashem destroying the world? He answered, “Vayeishev Hashem Melech L’Olam”, Hashem promised never to make a Mabul again.
Fearful they replied that although He promised not to bring a Mabul of water, He never said anything about fire. Perhaps He will destroy the world with fire. Bilam answered “Hashem Oz L’Amo Yitein” – Hashem is giving His people Strength – the Torah. The nations of the world heard this and answered “Hashem Yivarech Et Amo BaShalom” – May Hashem grant His people with peace.
At the time the nations of the world were happy that Hashem had granted His nation the Torah. After all Hashem had first come to them and offered it to each nation. They had all declined the opportunity; it was too much of an obligation for their life styles.
One of the names of Har Sinai is Har Chorev.
Chorev can mean destruction and doesn’t seem an appropriate name for a mountain in which the biggest blessing was given on!?
Our Sages explain that the nations of the world heard the commotion and were worried that the world was going to be destroyed (Chorev), perhaps no one had accepted the Torah.
Yet once Bilam told them that the Jews had accepted the Torah, they became more relaxed, even blessing the Jews for having received the Torah and saving the world.
There is a deeper explanation.
When the Torah was given to the Jews it represented the end of the real world to the other nations. They had refused and lost out on the opportunity to take part in a higher spiritual dimension. Whilst the Jews created a vessel in themselves to receive G-ds abundance, the nations of the world had no such vessel and for them this represented Churban – destruction.
They might have been happy at the time, but it seems that since then the nations of the world have realised how amazing the Torah is and what they lost out on. This has led to some jealousy towards us.
An anti-Semite walks into a crowded bar. He looks around and sees a Jewish man sat in a corner. The anti-Semite walks up to the bar, turns around and announces, “I’m going to buy everyone in this bar a free drink, except for that Jewish guy over there!” Everybody is clapping and cheering for the anti-Semite and when he buys the last pint, the Jewish man turns around, puts his thumb up and says, “Thanks mate!” The anti-Semite is slightly puzzled by his reaction but doesn’t pay too much attention to it.
The next night, the anti-Semite goes into the same bar and again, there is a Jewish guy sat in the corner, so the man, again, goes to the bar, turns around and says, “I’m going to buy everyone here a free drink, except for that Jewish guy over there!” The crowd are all ecstatic and are hugging and cheering the anti-Semite for his generosity. When he buys the last pint, the Jewish guy turns around, puts his thumb up and says, “Thanks mate!” The anti-Semite scratches his head and asks the barman, “Why is that Jewish guy thanking me when he’s the only person I’m not buying drinks for?”
“Well” the barman responds, “He owns this place.”
Anti-Semitism is unfortunately ripe even nowadays, but our rabbis let us into the secret to its origins.
The Gemara (Shabbat 69) cites the source of anti-Semitism using a play on words: The Torah – the source of the Jewish system of laws, values and moral standards – was received at Mount Sinai. The Hebrew pronunciation of “Sinai” is almost identical to the Hebrew word for “hatred” – Sinah. “Why was the Torah given on a mountain called Sinai?” asks the Talmud. “Because the great Sinah – the tremendous hatred aimed at the Jew – emanates from Sinai.”
At Sinai Jews were told that there is one God, Who makes moral demands on all of humanity. Consequently, at Sinai the Jewish nation became the target for the hatred of those whose strongest drive is to liberate mankind from the shackles of conscience and morality.
There are those that don’t like rules, and there are those that now understand the importance of all those rules and the power of Torah.
As Jews we have granted the world morals and ethics, we have contributed to society in a major way. We have portrayed that special connection with G-d.
This all emanates from the power of Torah and that most wonderful Divine given gift of G-d.
Every year we revisit that power and have the ability to reconnect to G-d. As the night of Shavuot approaches and hundreds of thousands of Jews stay up learning from this Divine Torah, Shavuot is a time to appreciate this gift and resolve to commit more time in our daily lives to connecting to G-d.
Don’t be left in the wedding without any plates or glasses to enjoy the food and drink.
Today is the day – make yourself into a vessel and receive that wisdom.