When we are little kids, we kind of just do what our parents and teachers tell us to do, but once we get older we start to think about things more. For many of us who grew up FFB (Frum from birth) keeping Torah seems natural, as though “Of course I will keep Torah, what else would I do?” But the truth is that keeping Torah is a choice, and even when it is not a choice, how we choose to keep Torah is a choice.
We love to hear stories of Baalei Teshuva (BTs), because it inspires us that someone who didn’t keep Torah would change their life around to keep Torah, but really all of us should have our own story. Perhaps it is not as dramatic, and perhaps not as big of a visible change, but we all should change. I suppose the fact that I grew up with parents who are BTs and mostly non-religious relatives, and having various interactions with non-Jews as a child made me question earlier since I saw that there was an alternative to leading an Orthodox Jewish life. I remember asking my father as a child how we know that Judaism is correct, since after all, our Christian neighbors believed that their religion was correct. The funny thing is that I don’t remember his answer at all, but I remember thinking that he answered my question. It retrospect, I wonder what he said that hit the spot.
My personal acceptance of Torah began as I became a teenager, when I started to think about whether G-d exists or not. It continued when I decided I believed in G-d, and that I believed in Judaism, but I looked around and saw so many different flavors of Judaism and wondered why my family did certain things or didn’t do other things that other Jews did. Accepting Torah for me was the choice to be passionate about Torah and Mitzvot. Yes, I grew up keeping Shabbos, but did I grow up loving Shabbos? No, unfortunately I did not. My parents love Shabbos, but I as I kid I sometimes felt that it was a day that was about all of the things that I couldn’t do. Yes, I sat in shul, and flipped through the pages of the siddur, moving my lips, “davening.” But was I talking to G-d?
For those who did not grow up religious, Shavuos is a day to say once again to Hashem, “Look what I took on for you. I am accepting your Torah even though I did not grow up this way.” But for those of us who grew up keeping Mitzvot, it is a chance to say, “Hashem, I accept your Torah. Even though I am used to keeping Mitzvot out of habit, I am not just keeping Torah because my parents told me to. I accept Torah on myself.”
Each person is unique and each person has to accept Torah in their own unique way. We say in Shema “Bichol Miodecha,” that we love Hashem with everything that we personally consider “Miod” “Very” – the things that are most dear to us. I accept Torah and Mitzvot upon myself, because Hashem created me and that is what He created me to do and asks from me to do. But I also accept Torah because I love doing Mitzvot and I love the Torah.
Wishing everyone a meaningful and spiritually uplifting Shavuos and a Chag Sameach/ Gut Yuntif!