What’s the Meaning of Shavuot?
Tonight at sundown the holiday of Shavuot begins, inaugurating a festival of learning and cheesecake-eating that commemorates the day that Israel received the Torah.
The enlightenment that is the Exodus might be extraordinary. It might even be miraculous. But it is not unique. Nothing new came into the world with the Exodus; it merely rearranged what already existed. Revelation, however, is an event. The giving of the Torah introduces something that has never before existed, and thus shakes the very foundations of existence.
Our Torah is a revolutionary, cultural critique. As we celebrate Shavuot, let us honour this gift of Torah by appreciating its distinctiveness and maintaining our own distinctiveness through commitment to its Covenant.
The goal of Shavuot night is not Torah learning — one can study Torah any day of the year. The goal is to experience something of the radical encounter with God at Sinai… In the Torah’s telling, the encounter with God was an immersive experience.