Our lives Revolve Around God's Torah
The recounting of the mandatory Temple sacrifices for the holidays of the
Jewish year occupies a significant amount of space in this week’s parsha.
The overall meaning and matter of animal sacrifices has been discussed a
number of times previously by me in these parsha articles. But I wish to now
attempt to dwell on the uniqueness of the sacrifices that are meant to
somehow characterize the holiday itself.
For example, the sacrifices offered on the seven days of Succot differ for
each day of that holiday. This is not true regarding the sacrifices ordained
for the last six days of Pesach which are all identical. This difference has
halachic implications regarding the recitation of a Haftorah blessing on the
Shabat of Chol Hamoed. On Succot because of the fact that a different
sacrifice was offered each day, the blessing is a holiday blessing and not
only a Shabat blessing.
On Shabat Chol Hamoed Pesach the blessing is a purely Shabat blessing. Aside
from the halachic implication just described, a subtle message of general
insight is provided here. Pesach, representing a one-time redemption from
Egyptian slavery, a great but essentially singular event, repeats its same
sacrifice throughout the six latter days of the holiday.
Succot, representing the Divine protection over Israel and all individual
Jews, is a renewed daily event which captures the differing circumstances
that each day of life brings with it - a new salvation each and every day.
Hence, the different sacrifices offered on the Temple altar on each
individual day of Succot.
The description of the holiday altar sacrifices for the holiday of Shavuot
is also significant. The Torah describes the holiday as Yom Habikurim – the
day of the offering of the first fruits of the agricultural year. It also
states that a new offering – the offering of the two loaves of bread - is to
be part of the mincha offering of that day.
Even though all of the holidays revolve around the natural and agricultural
year in the Land of Israel - Pesach is the holiday of springtime and the
offering of the grain sacrifice symbolizing the harvest of the winter wheat
crop and Succot represents the holiday of the fall harvest season – it is
the offerings of the holiday of Shavuot that are most intertwined with
nature and agriculture.
We know Shavuot as the holiday of the granting of the Torah on Sinai to the
Jewish people. The Torah does not mention this directly but rather
concentrates upon nature, agriculture and the blessings of the bounty of the
earth. The Torah, by not dwelling especially on the granting of the Torah
aspect of the holiday, sublimely suggests to us that Torah is as natural and
necessary to us as is the seasons of the year and the bounty of the earth.
Torah is truly our lives and the length of our days and is therefore an
integral part of nature itself, the very wonders of nature that Shavuot
itself celebrates. Perhaps that is the intent of the rabbis in their
statement that the world itself was created in the image of God’s Torah.
Rabbi Berel Wein