The question has been asked time and again: what exactly is the significance of the Sinai Event? Our Patriarchs studied and taught Torah centuries before the Torah was “given” to the Israelites on the holiday of Shavuot, and—according to Talmudic tradition—our forefathers observed all the mitzvot as well. Yet the “giving of the Torah” at Mount Sinai is considered perhaps the most decisive moment in the history of our nation, a nation whose storied history contains many seminal events.

Actually, the key word is the giving of the Torah. Before that fateful sixth of Sivan, we were privy to the wisdom of the Torah, but it did not belong to us. We can compare the Torah to a magnificent palace: before the Sinai Event we were given unlimited access to tour its rooms and enjoy its beautiful architecture and artwork; at Sinai we were handed the deed and keys to the property.

Before the sixth of Sivan, we were privy to the wisdom of the Torah, but it did not belong to usThe Talmud relates a fascinating episode which powerfully illustrates this point. Rabbi Eliezer the Great disagreed with Rabbi Joshua and the other sages of that generation regarding the susceptibility to impurity of a certain type of stove. Rabbi Eliezer vigorously defended his position, but to no avail—the rabbis refused to accept his position. At one point, a Heavenly Voice reverberated in the study hall: “Why do you argue with Rabbi Eliezer? The halachah (final ruling) always follows his opinion!” Rabbi Joshua then arose and exclaimed, “The Torah is not in Heaven!” The Torah was given to us at Sinai, and therein it is clearly stated that “the majority prevails.” Since the majority of the earthly sages concurred with Rabbi Joshua’s opinion, the opinion of supernal beings – indeed, the opinion of the Almighty Himself!—is immaterial. Amazingly, the halachah was established according to the majority opinion—and Rabbi Eliezer the Great was excommunicated for refusing to accept the ruling!

This, however, does not completely explain the significance of Shavuot. Does this holiday boil down to bragging rights? Does it really matter who “owns” the title to Torah? As long as we are permitted to study Torah, would it be such a great cause of consternation if G‑d actually had a say in determining the halachah?!

King Solomon likens the revelation at Sinai to our wedding day—the day G‑d chose us from amongst the nations and wedded us. On the occasion of His marriage, the groom, who was (and remains) madly in love with His bride, could find no greater dowry to give than the Torah, His most precious possession, His crown jewel, His joy and pride. Furthermore, He didn’t suffice with making this treasure available for our use; He lovingly gave this gift completely and unconditionally.

This is why Shavuot is so special. It commemorates the day when G‑d gave us the most precious jewel in his treasure house. “Fortunate are the people whose lot is thus!”

G‑d’s love for us drove Him to give us his most precious possession. Now how do we reciprocate?

We have the two days of Shavuot to contemplate the response to this question . . .