Is the fact that the Torah was given on Shavuos a secret? If not, then why does the Torah neglect to tell us this important aspect of the Yom Tov of Shavuose? Could it be that we are being taught something vital about the nature of Torah by the fact that its day of celebration is referred to as the “Chag Ha’katzir”, Holiday of the Reaping, or alternatively, “Chag Habikurim”, Holiday of The First Fruits. The mystery deepens when we find a completely new name being used by our sages to refer to this awesome day. In the Mishnah and Gemarah, Shavuos is referred to as Atzeres. It is not until the compilation of the Nusach Hatefilah that we finally find the name Zman Matan Toraseinu being used.
In order to be able to attain a real Kabbalas HaTorah on the day we received the Torah, we need to gain an appreciation of our relationship to Torah. Rav Moshe Shapiro cultivates a few lessons from these names bringing them to a fruitful conclusion.
The name Atzeres, is translated by the Targum (Deut. 16:8) as, “Ki’nosh”, gather. It is a day of gathering together physically, yes; however, it goes much deeper than that. We are meant to gather together all of the attributes that we developed during the days of Sefira and use them to facilitate a proper Kabbalas HaTorah. It is up to us to prepare ourselves with good Middos and Derch Eretz to create a fertile plain for the Torah to take root. This, Rav Shapiro explains, is the inner meaning of the statement (Menachos, 65b) to count days and make the month holy; count days and make Atzeres holy. It is only through that gradual process of developing ourselves that we can come to the day of gathering, Atzeres, and be able to receive the Torah. The world that we live in is a world similar to that which the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzayim lived. They began their journey to Kabbalas Hatorah from a vantage point of, “Mi Hashem asher Eshma B’kolo?” Based on the Zohar, Rav Shapiro explains that Hashem created this world with the name Elokim. When this word is read backwards, it can be read as Mi Eileh? Who is this? G-d hides Himself within the natural world. Only through developing our middos are we able to come to see the 50 levels of wisdom (Mi: Mem yud) which are hidden in the world known as Teva. We can then appreciate the fact that Teva is filled with G-dliness, as is conveyed by the fact that it has the same numerical value as Elokim (86, without the vav). The Bnei Yisroel followed this trajectory with their counting of the days toward Matan Torah. We, as well, can leave the world of Mitzrayim, which has the gimatriya of Mispar (380), an individual number without connection to a greater purpose, and go to a world of the Am Hanivchar, where each Jew counts as part of a greater whole. This brings down Kedusha into this world as part of a Minyan, a significant group where the sum is greater than the parts.
It is really up to us to till the soil of our soul to prepare ourselves for this lofty role. Rav Shapiro continues this growth process by shedding some light on the name, Chag Ha’Asif. The spiritual world is what gives the energy to the physical world. What is it in the spiritual world that gives the energy to the grain to be ready to be cut and used? The Gemarah writes that a child is considered to have the most basic level of knowledge when he can eat grain. Furthermore, the Gemarah says that it can be determined if a child has Daas, knowledge, if he is able to discern the difference between a rock and a walnut. The harvest of the grain is an expression of an abundance of knowledge in the world. With the giving of the Torah, it became possible for a human to attain levels of knowledge where he can discern between good and evil. However, it is up to him. The Torah has been given. Yes. Will you use that knowledge to choose good? It is up to you.
The Torah only tells us of the possibility of knowledge that is available at this point in time. It is a holiday of gathering the grain, of enjoying the first fruit. Will this lead to a Holiday of Atzeres, of gathering of the middos necessary to create a fertile environment for Torah to flourish? It is up to you. Will you be able to attain a kabalas Hatorah and rejoice in the holiday of Matan Torah. Will you be able to enjoy the fruit of the Torah? It is up to you. The Torah does not define it as the Yom Tov of Matan Torah because that will not necessarily happen, nor does it even call it Atzeres, per se’, because without your effort, that will not happen either.
Only in their teachings do Chazal convey to us the way to attain Torah. This can happen through making this day an Atzeres, a day of gathering of all of our faculties and focusing them toward the goal of understanding the Torah. Then, only in our Tefilos, do Chazal actually put the words: Z’man Matan Torasainu into our liturgy, to guide us to ask Hashem for His precious gift, the Torah. It is all up to you.