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Through The Eyes of a Woman

Sivan: As One Man

How do we prepare ourselves for Matan Torah, for the Giving of the Torah on Shavuos? The Rebbe often quotes the AriZal's interpretation of the verse in the Megillah: Hayamim ha-eleh nizkarim venaasim -- literally, "These days are remembered and done." However, the AriZal explains that every year when the holiday comes around (not only Purim, but any holiday or festival), the same spiritual energy that was first revealed on that date, is revealed again, every year. Moreover, we have to remember what happened then, and do something about it so that it will happen now as well. These days are here for us to do. We're not just going to sit and reminisce about the old days, drink and be merry, because of a date on our calendar. For Yidden, all of our holy days and celebrations are an opportunity to do something, to affect us and to change us and to make us and the world better.

So again, how does a Jew prepare for Matan Torah? The Rebbe explains that we must prepare for the Torah now in the same way that we prepared for the Torah then -- with naaseh venishma, we will do and then understand. This is the concept of kabbalas ol, acceptance of the yoke of Heaven: "Even if we do not yet understand, nevertheless we will obey. First we'll do it and then we'll worry about understanding."

This is a relevant and eternal lesson -- when Shavuos comes around we should remember that our first priority is learning how to do the mitzvos, learning how to behave. Obviously there are going to be some points that are not clear to us, but let's not wait until we understand everything from A to Z, because that might take a lifetime. Meanwhile the important thing is to do. Accordingly, one of our preparations should be to strengthen our learning of Halachah, how to observe the Torah, and then we should increase also our learning of the whys and wherefores, the things that will give us the joy and the insight. The truth is that a person has more pleasure in intellectual pursuits than in just learning technical things. Nevertheless, we should try to overcome the inclination to do that which is more pleasurable for us, by remembering that in Yiddishkeit it's not just an intellectual thing. The deed is primary.

A second way to prepare, the Rebbe explains, is to do what the Yidden did on Rosh Chodesh Sivan: The Torah relates that on Rosh Chodesh Sivan the Yidden arrived in the Sinai Desert and set up their camp. The expression the Torah uses for this is vayichan Yisrael -- "and Yisrael encamped." Everywhere else in the Torah this word is stated in the plural -- vayachanu, "they encamped," rather than vayichan, "he encamped." Rashi comments on this unusual form of the verb: This time, they were as one man with one heart. The use of the singular form indicates that they had reached a high level of unity and ahavas Yisrael. This was the second real preparation for the Giving of the Torah. It is a prerequisite.

To work, chevra!

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