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How does the festival of Shavuos correlate with being receptive and open? As the Jewish nation refined their character and became receptive and open, they were then able to receive G-d’s Torah, His gift of valuable instruction and wisdom for living.
The Torah portion we read on Shavuos is the Book of Ruth. We learn how Ruth, a Moabite princess and righteous convert, went beyond her past programming and upbringing, which taught very different values, not only giving up her former status of princess, but also pursuing an unlikely relationship with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to attain greatness. Through overcoming preconceived judgment and pursuing receptivity and openness, Ruth shows that she will do and she will listen.
“We will do and we will listen.” (Exodus 24:7)
Why do we do first and then listen? Because by doing first, we eventually begin to understand why we are doing what the Torah instructs us. Through the act of doing we learn the innermost secrets and become receptive to G-d’s wisdom. It is by doing that we begin to learn and understand that what we are doing is for our own benefit.
Instead of going back home to the familiar, Ruth humbly shows a willingness to follow the laws even though she may not have known its wisdom. G-d rewarded Ruth’s tenacity by making her the great-grandmother of King David and the predecessor of the Messiah.
Seligman (2012) notes, “Curiosity about the world entails openness to experience and flexibility about matters that do not fit one’s preconceptions:” Research shows that openness is strongly correlated to tolerance, which exemplifies Ruth’s connection with her mother-in-law. It is this openness and receptivity that allowed her to do first and learn why later. We know that there is a valid reason that we may not be aware of now, but we trust that it will become clear to us with time through faith and engaged Torah study.
During Shavuos, as our ancestors stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, they were able to perceive G-d in His full glory. They became receptive to receiving the vast amounts of knowledge, depth, and secrets contained in the Torah. Ruth’s example of showing openness and receptivity was a prerequisite in her rise to greatness.
When we show ourselves able to accept and be open or receptive, we will subsequently acquire what researchers call “the virtue of wisdom”. And with wisdom, we can continue our journey of spiritual elevation and become truly open to receiving G-d’s Torah anew.
Seligman, Martin E. P.. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (p. 243). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.