The festival of Shavuos commemorates Mattan Torah, G‑d’s giving of the Torah to the world. Since, as the Gemara informs us, “Our forefathers in Egypt never ceased studying Torah,”1 the Jewish people evidently possessed Torah before it was formally given on Sinai. What, then, is novel about Mattan Torah ?

The accomplishment of Mattan Torah lies in the fact that “G‑d gave us His Torah”2 : Prior to Mattan Torah , Torah was merely “taken” by man according to his inherently limited intellectual capacity. When G‑d gave the Torah, however, He gave it to us utterly and completely, in accordance with His infinite capacity.

Moreover, this was not simply a one-time event. Rather, at the time of Mattan Torah G‑d wholly “incorporated” Himself within Torah. Thus we find that G‑d says with regard to Torah: “I have written and placed [within Torah] My very ‘soul’ and Essence”3 ; whenever a person studies Torah, G‑d says: “You are actually clutching Me.”4

This, then, was the novel aspect of G‑d’s revealing Himself in Torah: Mattan Torah achieved something so novel that Torah as it existed prior to Mattan Torah bore absolutely no comparison to Torah as given at Mattan Torah :

Prior to Mattan Torah , Torah study was limited to man’s restricted intellect, etc. Understandably, man’s achievement in Torah was limited to what a finite being is capable of understanding of an infinite G‑d’s wisdom.

However, with the giving of the Torah, Torah study brings a student not only to comprehension of Torah, but to a unity with the Giver of Torah Himself.

While differences existed between Jews in their degree of comprehension of Torah as it existed prior to Mattan Torah , these differences did not apply to Jews as they studied Torah as it existed after Mattan Torah ; the aspect of “You are actually clutching Me” is the same among all Jews who study Torah, whether it be the greatest scholar or the simplest Jew.

Mattan Torah thus brought about not only an extraordinary degree of unity between the Jewish people and G‑d, but also among the Jewish people themselves — they were all equal in “clutching” G‑d.

This quality of Mattan Torah was so potent that when the nation encamped opposite Mt. Sinai, even before the Torah was given, it did so “as one man with one heart.”

For the fact that G‑d was about to give the Torah to the Jewish people revealed within them the quintessential aspect of their Jewishness, something that resides in all Jewish hearts equally: a faith in G‑d that transcends logic; a power that enabled all Jews — through Torah — to equally grasp G‑d’s essence.

The loftiness of this degree of Mattan Torah notwithstanding, Torah is ultimately to be studied and learned with one’s intellect. For the purpose of Mattan Torah is not only that G‑d’s Essence be revealed in Torah, but that the student so thoroughly unites himself with Torah that Torah becomes his very reason for existence.

When one understands something with one’s own intellect, then that concept is so thoroughly grasped that it becomes part and parcel of one’s spiritual being, to the same degree that food becomes transformed into part of one’s physical being.5

This is the ultimate intent of Mattan Torah : To allow man to grasp G‑d Himself — a relationship that wholly transcends intellect — yet be able to assimilate the Torah’s lessons and have them permeate the human intellect, so that the individual actually becomes one with Torah.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Rosh Chodesh Sivan , 5746.