The Previous Rebbe would bless people in the days before Shavuos with the phrase, “Kabbolas haTorah b’simcho uv’pnimiyus,” – that they should receive the Torah with joy and with inner feeling.
The depth behind this wish is as follows: The Yom Tov of Shavuos is about Kabbolas haTorah, receiving the Torah. Shavuos commemorates our receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. As much as we received the Torah in the year 2448, more than 3,000 years ago, there is always a new element and a renewal in our receiving of the Torah each year. And when we renew our commitment to the Torah, explains the Rebbe, we have to do it with simcha, with joy.
Why is joy such an important ingredient? Because if joy is missing, that means that we don’t really want it. When we truly want and enjoy doing something, we do it with joy. And if there is no joy, that indicates we are forced to do it.
There is a verse in Chumash, in the “Tochacha,” where Almighty G-d rebukes the Jewish people and says, “Tachas asher lo avad’to es Hashem Elokecha b’simcha,” meaning, in other words, “you deserve all this because you did not serve G-d with joy.” The commentaries explain that the issue at hand isn’t that the Jews didn’t serve G-d. They did serve G-d, but the joy was lacking. Serving G-d without joy shows that one is doing so only because one is forced to, either due to fear of punishment or a similar motivation. Serving G-d with joy demonstrates that we want to serve Him.
Thus, “Kabbolas haTorah b’simcha” means that we are renewing our commitment with joy, and that we want to do the Torah. This is why we are doing it b’simcha.
Of course, Shavuos is a holiday with special customs, most famously eating blintzes and other dairy products. But sometimes we are more occupied with the ice cream and the cheesecake than with the Yom Tov itself. The above brocha of the Previous Rebbe is that we be focused on the very essence of the Yom Tov.
“B’pnimiyus” means with inner feeling. The Torah’s teachings and inspiration should not only affect us superficially but should permeate our entire being.
The Gemara at the end of Brachos (in the version of the Ein Yaakov) teaches that a thief, right before breaking into a home to steal, asks Almighty G-d for help. There is a glaring contradiction here. If he believes in G-d, how can he ask G-d to help him in something that runs against G-d’s will? Moreover, why doesn’t he ask G-d to provide his livelihood in a nice, respectful way?
The answer is that although the thief believes in G-d, his emunah (belief) is not in pnimiyus. It’s only superficial and outward, and doesn’t permeate his being. That is why he could pray to G-d, expressing his belief in G-d, and at the very same time, ask G-d to help him commit a sin against G-d’s will.
This is the reason we wish ourselves and others that when we renew our commitment to Torah on Shavuos, we should not only do so with simcha, but that it should permeate our entire being.
“Kabbolas haTorah besimcha uv’pnimiyus.” Let us all receive the Torah anew with joy and with inner feeling.