“My name is Yechezkel Abramsky. I’m calling about a special initiative to save Jewish children. This is a matter of life and death and I would like to meet with you.”
“Okay, come on over,” replied the man.
He immediately went over and the man invited him in.
“Yes, please tell me what is this urgent situation you are dealing with?” said the wealthy man.
“The war has left us desolate and there are many young children who are not receiving any Jewish education in England. I started a yeshiva for these young boys…” explained R’ Abramsky.
“A yeshiva!?? You told me you are dealing with a situation of life and death!” exclaimed the wealthy man. “Please leave immediately!” he ordered and Rav Abramsky left.
Late the next Friday night, the phone rings in this wealthy man’s home. He answers.
“Hello? What is the emergency that I am being telephoned at this hour?”
“This is Yechezkel Abramsky I am calling about a matter of…”
“–But it’s Shabbos now! You can’t use the telephone on Shabbos!” exclaimed the man. “True. But for saving lives you must violate Shabbos and I told you that this is a matter of life and death. I am saving young Jewish children’s lives and I need your help with my yeshiva!” replied R’ Abramsky.
He got the check. But that’s not the point of the story. R’ Abramsky understood that Torah is literally our life and without it we are dead.
It is no wonder that the two people whom we associate with Matan Torah are Rus and Yisro, both gerei tzedek. Megillas Rus is read on Shavuos and Yisro is the name of the parsha that deals with Matan Torah. These two sections of Tanach are symbols of people who valued Torah so much that they gave up everything they had – their entire lives – in order to embrace it and become a part of Klal Yisroel.
This concept of valuing Torah and recognizing that it is life and without it we are the living dead, explains the Sfas Emes, is the reason men stay up all night on Shavuos to learn Torah. Yes, we might be more productive if we went to sleep at midnight, awoke at 7:00 a.m., davened and then learned the rest of the day – minus time for a Yom Tov meal. But we really want to express our love and need for Torah, and so we stay up all night.
We refer to the Yom Tov of Shavuos in our davening as “Z’man Matan Toraseinu, the time Hashem is giving us our Torah.” Yet the Gemara (Shabbos 88a) refers to Shavuos as the day of kabalas haTorah, when we received the Torah. Why the switch? Matan Toraseinu is referring to Hashem – the giver. Kabalas HaTorah is referring to us – the receivers.
On Shavuos, Hashem is literally delivering the Torah and all that accompanies it: our and our children’s ability to learn it, which chavrusas we will learn with, rabbeim we and children will get, the ability to focus on and retain our Torah learning, etc. All of this is decided on Shavuos.
There is nothing inhibiting Hashem from giving – as His goodness is the very purpose of Creation. And the greatest good He has to offer is His Torah. But it is we, the receivers, who determine how much of it we will actually receive. Hashem is the fundraiser’s dream – He hands out a blank check and we fill in the amount. The amount of the check is solely determined by how much we want, value and love the Torah. It’s dependent on the degree of our acceptance.
About the Author: Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is Associate Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Passaic Torah Institute, Passaic, NJ.
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