Dear Readers,

They were the perfect couple, so in love.

But there were whispers of rumor …

Did she really love him as much as she professed, or was their union out of convenience? He was extremely handsome, fabulously wealthy; everything that he touched turned to gold. They lived in an elegant mansion that was the envy of many. She came from a difficult past, and he had valiantly rescued her from all her troubles.

Time passed. Challenges appeared on the horizon. They battled infertility, then, they faced a serious health threat. Soon after, they suffered a financial crisis, forcing them from their luxurious home.

Despite all that they had been through, they remained together. Their relationship evolved over time, their love expresses itself differently nowadays, but they remain as devoted as ever.

When the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, there was a cosmic union between heaven and earth, between G‑d and His people. We forged our covenantal relationship with G‑d, voicing our acceptance to become His eternal bride.

The Talmud (Shabbat 88a) teaches:

“ ... and they stood in the bottom of the mountain.”

Rav Avdimi said: “This teaches that the Holy One, Blessed is He, covered them with the mountain as though it were an [upturned] vat. He said to them: ‘If you accept the Torah, fine; if not, your burial will be there.’ ”

Rav Acha bar Yaakov said: “From here [we learn] a claim of coercion [regarding the acceptance] of the Torah.”

What does this mean? Did G‑d actually force Himself upon us? Like a starry-eyed bride, hadn’t we eagerly and willingly accepted to do whatever G‑d asked?

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (Likkutei Torah, Reeh 22a) explains that this mountain above our heads was actually a metaphorical, overwhelming outpouring of love. After witnessing G‑d’s miracles and wonders, it was like our free choice had been taken away. G‑d enveloped us in such a huge mountainous hug of love that saying anything other than “yes” was impossible, comparable even to death.

The Talmud continues:

Rava said: “Nevertheless, they accepted the Torah again in the days of Achashverosh, as it is written: ‘The Jews established and accepted.’ They established [in the days of Achashverosh] that which they had already accepted [in the days of Moses].”

When did our relationship become more genuine? When we experienced exile and hardship. In the days of Esther, after we had been thrown out of our land, our enemies threatened to kill us, and G‑d’s showering of love was no longer evident—that’s when we proved our devotion and allegiance.

It is now close to 2,000 years since our nuptial home, the Beit Hamikdash, was destroyed and we were exiled from our land. Since then, we’ve experienced the harshest forms of tribulation—from expulsions and genocides, holocausts and pogroms, to cruel acts of anti-Semitism, even today. In our personal lives, too, many of us suffer emotionally, physically or materially, and often, our connection to our eternal Groom feels hidden.

Despite it all, we remain devoted to our Jewishness!

This Shavuot, as the Ten Commandments are read in your synagogue, show up! Show the world that despite all we have been through, “Am Yisroel Chai,” through the good times and the bad, the Jewish people are eternally devoted to being G‑d’s chosen people.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW