Shavuot: Forging our own path, like Naomi

Midrash Rabbah teaches that each and every one of us stood at Sinai- even those of us not yet born were present to receive the Torah. It posits that each person heard the revelation according to their own ability; the young according to theirs, the older according to theirs, so that each person actually heard something uniquely suited to them..
Rabbi Yochanan said: When God’s voice came forth at Mt. Sinai, it divided itself into 70 human languages, so that the whole world might understand it. All at Mt. Sinai, young and old, women, children, and infants according to their ability to understand. Moses too, understood only according to his capacity, as it is said (Ex. 19:19), "Moses spoke and God answered him with a voice." [This means] with a voice that Moses could hear. (Midrash Exodus Rabbah 5:9)
On Shavuot, tradition teaches that we celebrate the day we received the Torah, the day we stood together at Sinai and each heard the Truth in a Voice we individually could understand.  As I understand it, the Midrash is teaching us that each of us made our own meaning based on what we heard. We all heard the same Torah, but G-d gave it to us in a way in which we each could understand and use to forge our path in life.  The idea of "making meaning" is at the heart of what it means to learn.  Both children and adults learn first through observing and gathering data, but only really reach the level of understanding when integrating those facts with personal experience. 

We read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot and learn the story of Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi, who had a very bitter life. I recently heard a fascinating insight into Naomi. Rubisa (Rebbetzin) Deena Hadar of Temple Moses of Miami explained that Naomi did not simply accept her lot in life. While she had once had wealth and was now destitute, she decided to take her life into her own hands and turn things around for the better.  Naomi guided her daughter-in-law Ruth through a very unusual procedure to remind a relative of theirs, Boaz, that he had a responsibility to her family as their next of kin. Although it was a bold move, Naomi instructed Ruth to uncover Boaz's feet at night while he was sleeping, which was the turning point in the story and indeed in Naomi and Ruth's destiny.

In connecting this insight to the Midrash, it occurs to me that Naomi integrated the Torah she knew into her own life.  She was able to connect to a place of guidance deep within herself, the voice of Torah and G-d inspiring her.  Much like Naomi, we too should remember that sometimes bold moves must be taken to direct our future. Innovation, change, and thinking out-of-the box are crucial both in leadership and in directing our own destiny, together with Hashem.

Just like at Sinai, we each hear the words according to our own ability. However, it was together as the Jewish people that we each brought our own understanding and experience and created meaning together.  On this Shavuot may we all find the place of both communal understanding, each in our own communities, as well as the personal guidance that comes from the Voice that speaks directly with us.