Special Dvar for Shavuot 5774
On Shavuot we received the Torah, where the Rabbis recount the Jews’ proclamation that “we will do and we will hear” the laws of the Torah. The Rabbis explain that the other nations of the world were offered the Torah, and rejected it because they claimed that it was in their nature to steal and kill. But we know that both social and Noachide Laws both prohibit killing and stealing, so what was the reason for them to reject a law that they must already follow?
As Rabbi Zweig explains, to answer this question we must ask another: On the third day of creation, the earth was commanded to produce all trees, and that the branches should all taste like the fruits of that tree (1:11). The earth did create the trees, but not all branches tasted like the fruits. How is this possible? If G-d commanded the earth to produce something, how can it not? The answer is that G-d also created the ability to disconnect from G-d and nature, and that’s what the earth did in that instance. By extension, anything that came from the earth, such as man, also contains the ability to disconnect from G-d (this was essential to give Man free choice).
With this perspective, it makes sense that when presenting the Torah, G-d was telling the nations that their true nature was not to want to kill or steal, but the nations were blinded by their disconnect, rejected this notion, and therefore couldn’t accept the Torah (they still had to abide by the laws, but they rejected the notion that it was their nature to adhere to them). On the other hand, the Jews embraced this connection to G-d, and understood that doing G-d’s will reinforces the connection that they already have, which is why they committed to doing before even hearing of all the laws. That’s why doing good things makes us feel good, why we feel guilty when we act improperly, and that’s why Shavuot is so important to reconnect to the source of our being, and the purpose of our being here.