How should one celebrate the receiving of the Torah? The Talmud (Pesachim 68b) quotes a seemingly strange argument as to how to properly celebrate Yom Tov in general, and Shavuot in particular. "Rav Eliezer says, a person on Yom Tov either eats and drinks or sits and learns". One may choose how to celebrate, but that choice must be performed with full dedication. Apparently, he felt that trying to celebrate Yom Tov in two different ways gives neither its proper due.
All great pieces of literature can be understood on multiple levels, over multiple time periods, and by a variety of cultures. There is no greater piece of literature than the Bible: "Turn it and turn it, as all is in it" (Avot 5:22). We read, reread, and then read it again as we seek to deepen our understanding of this wonderful text. We begin our study of Torah by seeking to understand its p'shat.
The holiday of Shavuot is, outside of the observant Jewish community, a much-neglected holiday. It lasts only one day (two in the Diaspora), comes just as the summer is arriving and, unlike our other holidays, has no rituals associated with it--no shofar, matzah, or sukkah. The Torah itself makes no mention of any historical event associated with the holiday. Rather, it describes how, seven weeks after Pesach, "you may present a new grain as a meal offering to G-d" (Vayikra 23:15).
Two of our most fundamental mitzvoth are those of Tefillah, prayer and Talmud Torah, the study of Torah. Yet there has long been a tension regarding which is of primary importance. The view that "if only one would pray the entire day" (Brachot 21a) cannot be easily reconciled with G-d's words to Joshua that, "The book of law shall not depart from your mouth and you shall meditate in its words day and night" (Joshua 1:8).