Shavuot- Celebrating the Eternal Torah
The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (88a) cites the following enigmatic pronouncement made by an anonymous sage: "Blessed is the Compassionate One who gave the triple Torah to the triple nation through the third, on the third day, in the third month."
This Rabbi points to the prominence of the number 3 in the context of Matan Torah. The written text of the Torah itself consists of three portions – Torah, Nebi’im and Ketubim. The nation that received the Torah, Am Yisrael, consists of three groups – Kohanim, Leviyim and Yisraelim. The Torah was brought to us by Moshe, the third of three siblings (he had an older brother and sister – Aharon and Miriam). The Torah was given to us after the "Sheloshet Yemeh Hagbala" – the three days of separation, and during the third month, the month of Sivan (as Nissan is considered the first month in several respects).
What is the significance of the number three in regard to the Torah? Why was this unnamed Rabbi moved to express special praise to Hashem because all the "3s" that are featured in the process of Matan Torah?
An important and meaningful explanation of this remark is offered by the great Kabbalist and Posek Hacham Ovadia Hedaya (Aleppo, Syria – Jerusalem, 1889-1969), in the introduction to his work Yaskil Abdi. He notes that in Halacha, something that is repeated three times creates a "Hazaka" – a condition that can presumed to be permanent. Once something occurs three times, it is assumed to be enduring. The Gemara applies this concept to Torah scholarship, as well, teaching us in Masechet Baba Mesia (85a), "Anyone who is a Torah scholar, and his son is a Torah scholar, and his grandson is a Torah scholar – then Torah will never cease from his offspring, forever." Three consecutive generations of Torah learning guarantee that Torah will remain in that family for eternity. The Gemara cites as the source for this concept a verse in the Book of Yeshayahu (59:21) in which G-declares, "And My words which I have placed in your mouth – they shall not leave from your mouth, from your offspring’s mouth, or the mouth of your offspring’s offspring, forever and ever." Once Torah scholarship is attained by three generations, it remains in place for all time.
The Rabbi cited by the Gemara praises G-d for giving us a permanent Torah, a Torah which is everlasting. The number 3 is associated with Matan Torah to teach us that Torah has a "Hazaka" – it is eternal, and will always remain with us. Everything else comes and goes. Cultural fads and popular ideas and habits do not last. Eventually, sooner or later, they go out of style. Torah, however, is eternal. It is the one constant that has remained and will always remain throughout human history. The Rabbi cited by the Gemara thus praises Hashem for the great privilege that we have – to have been given an eternal Torah.
On Shabuot, we celebrate and recommit ourselves to the belief of the Torah’s eternal quality. We were chosen to receive this most precious commodity – a system of values and ideals that is everlasting. Only Torah has passed, and will always continue to pass, the test of time. This is what makes the Torah such a special and unique gift, and worthy of our ongoing, unconditional and enthusiastic commitment and devotion.