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Shavuot 5761

By: Rav Ari Shames

This week I would like to focus on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot.

Shavuot is unique in many ways as compared to the other chagim that we have. Firstly, most significantly, the holiday does not have a date. As opposed to all other chagim that have a clearly stated date in the Torah, Shavuot is left without a date. All the Torah tells us is that after Pesach we are to bring the Korban Omer and then begin counting 49 days and the next day is Shavuot.

This surely indicates a very close relationship between Pesach and Shavuot, which can be seen both on the historical level and in the progression as far as the Korbanot are concerned. Historically, we are being taught that the ultimate purpose of Pesach was the Matan Torah of Shavuot. The physical redemption is not the point rather the spiritual destiny of the Jewish people is what is to set the tone. In the Mikdash as well this escalation is apparent. While on Pesach we bring a Korban made out of Barley and prepared in a manner that remained Matzah, on Shavuot we bring a Korban made out of wheat and baked into the complete product of Chametz. Once again we see the progression from the preliminary stages of Pesach to the completed stages of Shavuot.

The lack of date becomes even more peculiar when we investigate what actually happened historically, and what we do in commemoration of Matan Torah. We observe Shavuot on the 6th of Sivan. According to the Gemara in the Torah was given on Shabbat, and Yetziat Metzrayim was on Thursday, if you do the math you find out that the Torah was given an the 51st day and not on the 50th!! Or in the words of the Magen Avraham "How can we say in our davening on Shavuot "yom matan toratenu" if indeed the 6th of Sivan was historically the day BEFORE Matan Torah"?

This problem bothered many of the poskim and would be a wonderful project to research during your Tikun Lel Shavuot but for now I would like to focus on a more "drash" answer to the problem.

If we look at the trio of the Regalim- Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot- I think we can say that each one refers to a different aspect of history. Pesach is focused on the past. The entire process of the seder and the various Mitzvot associated with Pesach are there to remind us the exodus form Egypt. We are to identify with it and actually relive the events, but we are doing just that "reliving" the focus is thousand s of years in the past and it is our challenge to make it alive for us today.

Sukkot on the other extreme is focused on the future. The symbolism of the Sukkah and the Arba Minnim are closely related to the views of the final Geula. The Korbanot that are brought are in correlation to the nations of the world who are to eventually come and celebrate Sukkot.

If Pesach is the past, and Sukkot is the future, I think we can make a claim for Shavuot being the present. The Chag focuses on the giving of the Torah. The torah was given on Sinai thousands of years ago, however the Torah was not ONLY given on Sinai thousands of years ago. The Torah IS given each and every day that we choose to learn it. The experience of learning Torah and our commitment to the Torah and Mitzvot are not a historical fact a lone, rather they are a real live ongoing commitment that we experience each and every day anew. As Chazal tell us "b'chol yom y'heyu beinecha k'chadashim" each and every day the words of Torah should be new to you.

Shavuot therefore is the holiday of the present. It is interesting to note the psukim in parshat Emor which describe the Chagim. On most of the Chagim we are told not to do melacha. However on two days the commandment is stressed with the words "beztem hayom hazeh" "on this very day", on Yom Kippur and on Shavuot. I heard a beautiful explanation of this from R. Motti Alon. The reason is that on most holidays we are reliving an event, such as we described earlier concerning Pesach, however when it comes to Yom Kippur we are remembering the process of having our sins forgiven we are experiencing the authentic thing today and it is not a reenactment. When it comes to Shavuot as well we are not commemorating a historical event rather we are accepting the Torah TODAY.

This may explain the "adjustment of the date of Shavuot. Chazal may have wanted to slightly detach the holiday from its historical date in order to stress the point that Shavuot is a holiday of TODAY and not of YESTERDAY. Shabbat Shalom

Chag Sameach


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