Rejoicing With the Torah
By Rabbi Yonah Burr
The Gemara in tractate Pesachim cites a dispute regarding how one should spend their Yom Tov day. Rav Eliezer says, one should either devote it completely to Hashem; learning and davening, only eating the minimal amount, while spending the majority of the day devoted to spirituality. Rav Yehoshua, on the other hand, says that the proper way to spend Yom Tov, is to do a little of both; half the day learning and davening, while the other half should be devoted to our enjoyment of the day.
The Halacha follows Rav Yehoshua, that we should make sure to include both aspects in our Yom Tov.
The Gemara makes an astounding remark- on Shavuos, everyone agrees, that we must devote time to enjoying the day, having a festive meal with food and drink. And the gemara relates how the great sages would prepare delicacies in honor of the day. Why? Because Shavuos is the day of the giving of the Torah.
Rav Elya Lopian asks; wouldn’t we expect the opposite? The day of the giving of the Torah should be intense, almost like a Yom Kippur, completely devoted to the spiritual, fit for the special day that we received the Torah.
Rav Elya explains that a human being is unique, created as a combination of the spiritual and the physical. An angel is completely spiritual, while an animal is completely physical. Only a human being, as a ‘hybrid’ has the ability to serve Hashem with both aspects. Our intellect, our neshama has the power to elevate the physical, thus serving Hashem ‘with all of our hearts’ i.e. our entire being.
How do we ensure that we will indeed elevate the physical, and not instead be dragged down by it? It is only through the power of the Torah that gives us the ability to navigate this balance.
We demonstrate our special responsibility and privilege, by using the day of Shavuos to rejoice both physically, and spiritually, as the honor of the Torah, for it is only through the Torah that we are able to strike this perfect balance!
Have a wonderful Yom Tov!