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Shavuot: Awe vs. Love of God: Introduction

Transcribed by Daniel Goldman from a shiur delivered on 18 May 1999 : I want to speak about one of the overall themes of Shavuot, which is coming up this Thursday night, God willing.  I think its important we understand something we’ve mentioned many times in passing, something which takes on tremendous significance in the context of the holiday.  The event known as Matan Torah is actually divided into two distinct parts.  Although the Torah goes out of its way to separate them to make sure that the two are not confused, unfortunately they always are.


These two parts of Sinai are Revelation as related in the portion of Yitro (Exodus 19), and Matan Torah found at the end of the portion of Mishpatim (Exodus 24).  Revelation is to see God, as God is.  The Matan Torah is the giving of the Torah. As we will see, there is much more than that.  Tonight, I want to focus on the differences between developing our relationship with God growing from a point of Awe and then to the level of Love, and the opposite approach, beginning with Love and then moving to Awe.

Rambam defines Love of God as the desire to know more about God.  But the more you learn, you realize that God is beyond anything you could comprehend.  Even beyond infinity.  We are going to discuss what we do in a general way, and what Shavuot offers us the opportunity to do.  We’re going to compare this to what Man was supposed to do in the Garden and how everything changed when he left the Garden.  Both approaches, from Love to Awe, and from Awe to Love are there in the text.   In fact, we see both forms of development inside and outside the Garden, at Revelation and at the Giving of the Torah.  Shavuot gives us the opportunity to focus on one approach that is different from the one we take the rest of the year.

These two approaches address the primal function of the human being.  This is not the purpose of the creation of the human being (which was so God could give good), but what we were created to do.  I explained last week why that had to be.  Shavuot comes at the end of counting of 49 levels, thereby correcting the lower seven sefirot.  At Sinai, we were one step away from the coming of the Mashiach.  We learned last time that Moshe, as he descended Mt. Sinai, was Mashiach ben Yosef, and that Hur, son of Miriam, was Mashiach ben David.  Moshe came down with this perfect light of the engraved tablets.  The Jews would have entered olam haba right then and there had they not made the same mistake as Adam and Eve.

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