“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a film embedded in the psyche of every American. It teaches the need to silence outside noise in order to arrive at one’s essence. On Shavuot we were given the advantage that God Himself expunged the outside noise and brought silence to the world by Matan Torah, but during the rest of the year that’s our job.
This idea can be drawn out of the writings of my first cousin, Rabbi Yaakov Nagen (Genack), rosh kollel at Yeshivat Otniel.
He writes that in the Shavuot davening we describe the Yom Tov as “the time of the giving of the Torah.” However, according to the Zohar, every day God teaches the Torah anew, implying the Torah is transmitted each day as well, not just on Shavuot.
Therefore, how is Shavuot unique and why don’t we hear God’s voice talking to us on a daily basis?
The chasid Rabbi Yaakov Leiner answers that God keeps the world moving constantly and gives the Dibrot to us on a daily basis (see Zohar: Siman 71, relating to the words in the verse “with a great voice, which did not cease” [Deuteronomy 5:19] and see also Berachot [17b]), but because of the noise and dealings that we are preoccupied with, a separation is created between us and God and we don’t hear the daily expressions from Heaven.
By Matan Torah, God Himself silenced the outside noise, allowing us to hear the Dibrot [that are present every day], but after that experience, the regular noise of our lives consistently drowns out God’s voice (paraphrased from “Beit Yaakov” by Eliyahu Kitov; Order of Parshiyos: Book of Exodus: Volume 2, Page 130, 1985).
For years, my cousin wrote, he took the time to walk from his home to the beit midrash preoccupied with preparing for the daily shiur. However, when he began to live in the present and sensed all the sweetness around him, he was awakened to his immediate surroundings.
Already on the first day, the voices that were hidden from him appeared. The birds sang “all” day, not just in the morning and at sunset.
Soon, he realized that life’s journey is not over time, but exists in the present, and should therefore compel one to delve deeper into his current reality. Now, he says, he’s trying to live the life of “Seek out My face every day.”
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) brings down the story of one who asked, “When will Mashiach come?” and he was answered, “Today.” The questioner waited until the evening and was disappointed when the redemption didn’t materialize. Then they explained to him, “Indeed it will come today, if you hearken unto the voice of God.”
Though God originally expunged the outside noise by Har Sinai, we must silence outside noise and distraction each day and tune into the symphony of Torah being orchestrated on a daily basis. In this way it will be an ongoing “wonderful life.”
By Steven Genack
Steven Genack is the author of the forthcoming “Articles, Anecdotes and Insights: Genack/Genechovsky Torah” (Gefen).