As we know, Shavuos is the time that we celebrate the giving of the Torah. The luchos habris were the physical expression of our bond with Hashem. However, that original article of our connection was destroyed by Moshe Rabbeinu shortly thereafter. It then took us a few months to receive a second set. The Shla hakodesh tells us that it was exactly the same thing – a perfect replica of the original. The only difference between the first and second luchos was that the originals were made by Hashem Himself, while the second set were hewed out by Moshe Rabbeinu.
What is the significance of this change – what is being expressed by the difference in who was the sculptor of the artifact? I would like to suggest a parallel, found in the Yom Tov of Shavuos itself. Our rabbis teach us that at the Exodus from Egypt, Klal Yisrael ascended to a great height of spiritual understanding. However, during the time of sefira, they were obligated to grow in order to deserve those high levels. This was achieved on Shavuos after we climbed the 49 steps. First we ascended spiritual heights, as a gift from Hashem. Shavuos culminates our own spiritual success and achievement.
Reb Gedaliah Schor points out that klal Yisrael sinned by making the golden calf, transgressing via “na’aseh” (to make). Measure for measure, Moshe Rabbeinu had to hew out the stones himself to make an action of na’aseh to mend our relationship with Hashem. This is why the second luchos had to be made by Moshe, for we had to rectify the transgression in order to bring about teshuva.
It seems that the idea of Shavuos, which has the well-known custom of staying up all night learning, also has to do with making up for past errors. Klal Yisrael slept in on Shavuos morning and therefore we stay up the entire night to rectify this wrong approach.
There is a second aspect to the Teshuva which we accomplish by staying up all night on Shavuos. The Gemara in Pesachim 68b tells us that everyone agrees that on the Holiday of Shavuos, one must spend some of the day enjoying the holiday through physical enjoyment. Rashi explains that this is to show that we are happy with the Torah which Hashem gave us today. Rashi uses a strange word “Noach” meaning it is comfortable for us. Rashi says that the simcha of the day is that we don’t experience Torah as a strain or stress, rather it is congruent with our physical needs and existence. Though there are many times that we may feel that a Torah is life is unnatural, after staying up a whole night and learning with zeal, there is a satisfaction that is unparalleled. This night of deprivation actually gives us physical enjoyment. This idea is found in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos 6:4, which says that those who eat plain bread and only drink water will be happy people in this world. So too, we who stay up all night learning (usually, people who stay up all night feel miserable), yet feel exuberant in the morning, are also returning to our Jewish essence.
May we all merit to feel the simcha of Kabalas Hatorah.