Pidyon Kaparot Now

A Question of Fruit – Shavuos 5770

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The Mishnah teaches us that Shavuot, the festival of Torah that approaches, is coined Yom Ha-Din—a Day of Judgment. ((Rosh Hashanah 16a.)) Rather than the judgment of Rosh Hashanah, on which all creatures come before the Heavenly tribunal, the Mishnah defines the judgment of Shavuot as pertaining to the “fruit of the tree.”

The nature of this judgment requires scrutiny. What is the meaning of it, and what is the connection between the giving of Torah and the fruit of the tree?

To explain this, and to gain some insight as to the essence of the day, we introduce an additional issue—a matter that ought to be on our minds as we approach Shavuot.

Our Portion of Torah

All of us took part in the revelation of Sinai. The entirety of the nation stood beneath the mount, as one person with a single heart, to receive the Torah. The inclusion of all members of the nation and their collective gathering “as one person” was integral to the very giving of Torah. ((See Rashi, Shemos 19:2.))

As we know from the teaching of Chazal in numerous places, the number of mitzvos in Torah is taryag, two hundred and forty eight Positive Commandments that parallel the organs of man, and three hundred and sixty five Negative Commandments that parallel his sinews. The Torah thus precisely corresponds to the basic human makeup. The reason for this is simple: Torah, in all its great elevation, was created for humankind: to be studied by humankind and fulfilled by humankind.

The human form for whom Torah was fashioned is Israel. Coming together at Sinai, the members of the nation collectively formed one human frame, one great body ready to receive Torah. Chazal teach that every person who stood at Sinai was healed form any physical defect. All were present at Sinai with their physical and mental faculties intact; only thus could the Torah be given.

Yet, together with the “collective” giving of Torah, each member of the nation that stood at Sinai received an individual portion within Torah. Despite hearing the same words as everyone else, each member of Israel received the Torah from his own perspective, with his unique character and his unique intellectual grasp. Just as each individual had a unique part in the makeup of the nation, so each member of the nation received a unique part of Torah.

This is likewise true of the descendents of those that stood at Sinai. The portions of Torah are split, generation after generations, into myriads of individual portions, allowing each person ever to be born into the nation his unique portion. Together as one, through those that stood at Sinai and their descendents after them, the Torah, and with it the destiny of creation latent in Torah, is completed.

We too, to this very day, all possess a part of Torah. Just as no two faces are the same, so no two portions are the same; our differences in character and nature attest to an inherent difference in our portions in Torah. It is this that we refer to in our prayer that Hashem should “give us our portion in His Torah.” The prayer to achieve our portion in Torah is itself a request that G-d should lead us to find our ultimate goal in life.

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