Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shavuos - For God and for Man

The Tanna R’ Yehosua teaches (Pesachim - 68b) that one is required by to have Simcha on Yom Tov. This is cited in a Braisa which teaches that one has no obligation on Yom Tov other than eating and drinking – and/or learning Torah.

R’ Yochanan says we need to do both and derives this Halacha from the following:

There is one Pasuk (verse) (Devarim 16:8) that says ‘Atzeres LaShem Elokecha’ – there should be an assembly toward God. That is fulfilled by learning Torah.

And one Pasuk that says Atzeres Tihiyeh Lachem ((Bamidbar 29:35) – there should be an assembly for you. That is fulfilled by eating and drinking.

R’ Elazar argues that one may choose to do all of one or all of the other.

The Gemarah then tells us that all authorities - even R’ Elazar - agree that in the case of Atzeres (Shavuos) we require both. The reason given is that this is the day that the Torah was given to Israel.

The question arises - why is that the only cause for celebrating Yom Tov via the act of eating and drinking? Doesn’t the Exodus from Egypt qualify for that as well? Furthermore why is eating and drinking - a physically self satisfying act - the way to celebrate Matan Torah - God giving us the Torah? Wouldn’t learning Torah be a more appropriate way of celebrating that event?

An answer is provided by the Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveichik – The Beis HaLevi.

Malachim (angels) requested of God that they be given the Torah. Moshe Rabbenu argued against them for Israel and won.

His primary point was that Malachim have no Guf (corporeality) and can therefore not do Mitzvos that involve the body. So on Shavuos which celebrates Matan Torah we are required to fulfill the ‘Lachem’ of eating and drinking - which require a Guf. If we just did ‘LaShem’ - angels could do a far better job of it than man because serving God is their entire existence.

The Beis HaLevi adds that this is one reason why we eat a dairy meal first on Shavuos after which we eat a meat meal. This enables us to do more of the Mitzvos of Lachem and thereby demonstrate to the advantage we have over Malachim.

Good Yom Tov to all!

Taken from Torah L’Daas