I have a bad habit. Now, you already know from my willingness to disclose it that it can’t be that bad. But still, ever since I was a young girl, I have not been able to kick the tendency to manicure my cuticles with my mouth. So without sharing any disgusting details, let me just say that last Yom Kippur, as I felt truly inspired to get closer to G‑d in a measurable way, I committed myself to stopping this habit. For real this time.

I have a bad habit

And I did. For many weeks, I remembered my sincerity and passion, my joy in serving my Creator in a way that would make Him happy. Forget the obvious benefits of having grown-up looking hands, stopping this habit would mean that I would no longer accidentally cause myself to bleed on Shabbat, something the Torah forbids. It's not murder or idolatry, I know, but a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and I hadn't been so good with this one.

For many weeks after Yom Kippur, I was "good." Each time I started going at my cuticles, I remembered how sure and sincere I had been on that sacred day; I had made a holy, heartfelt commitment and I needed to honor it. I don't have to tell you that it's gotten harder as the year has gone on. The inspiration that was once so undeniable and energizing sometimes feels like a burden. And it gets harder every week; I've even failed a couple of times.

What is it that makes me want to be close to a G‑d who cares about how I treat my fingers? Wouldn't we both be happier if I was just a good person?

When we celebrate Shavuot, the holiday commemorating the eternal bond, between G‑d and the Jewish people, we marry G‑d all over again, on His terms, not ours.

Over a million people heard G‑d Himself say the first two of the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your G‑d Who brought you out of the land of Egypt” and “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Moses gave us the other eight when we couldn't handle the intensity of G‑d’s communication.) Never in recorded history has G‑d spoken to an entire nation. Although we do not remember it, we are taught that every Jewish soul, indeed all of creation, beyond any strictures of space or time, witnessed that revelation. We unequivocally accepted G‑d's proposal, answering “na'aseh v'nishma,” "we will do and we will hear." We bought the Torah package unconditionally, sight unseen, no refunds or exchanges.

G‑d "signed" the deal, too; He promised we would be His chosen people eternally. The "do" part—our commitment to "doing" all of G‑d's mitzvahs—supersedes everything. The "hear" part—our commitment to Torah learning in order to understand what G‑d really wants—is also essential to our successful relationship with Him.

Some people hear about this divine revelation from their parents, who heard about it from their parents, and so on, all the way back to Mount Sinai—an unbroken chain of generations testifying to the revelation. There is the fact that Torah scrolls from all over the world are almost identical. And, of course, the miraculous survival of the Jewish people throughout millennia of persecution. Yet it can still be challenging to accept our eternal bond with our Creator. Why is this?

Think about the fact that George Washington crossed the Delaware. We didn’t witness that either, but we believe it easily, because George Washington's activities don't affect us like the questionIt can be challenging to accept our eternal bond with the Creator of Torah's divinity does.

I have heard that most American Jews are descended from impoverished immigrants who came to this country around the turn of the last century. Shabbat observance was challenging for these Jews as their jobs (and hungry families) demanded working on Saturdays. This was the beginning of the slow but steady move away from the tradition, the beginning of withholding from their children everything they heard from their parents and grandparents all the way back to Sinai. With each generation, the booming heavenly voice these souls heard at Sinai became softer and softer. To reconcile eternity with the demands of modernity, Torah got a makeover. But G‑d's voice still sounds constantly, maybe even a little louder on Shavuot, when our souls are reminded of the eternal promise we all made to G‑d.

It's challenging to listen to His voice when immediate gratification beckons. I know that well. But when I succeed in putting G‑d's desires ahead of my own, my desires slowly become the same as His. Instead of feeling burdened, I feel exhilarated that He cares so much about every detail of my life.

Marriage is a lot of work, but it's worth it.