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YomTov, Vol. III, # 8

A Lesson from a Date - Shavuos

by Rabbi Yehudah Prero

Shavuos, is the holiday on which we celebrate the giving of the Torah to the nation of Israel.Upon examination, one would find that the Torah usually lists exactly what day a holiday begins. For example, by Pesach the Torah tells us (Vayikra 23:6) that "On the fifteenth day of this month is the Festival of Matzos." However, come Shavuos we find something different. The Torah writes (Vayikra 23: 15) "and you shall count for youselves from the day after the Shabbos . . . you shall count 50 days and you shall bring a new Mincha offering to Hashem . . . and you shall convoke on this very day - there shall be a holy convocation for yourselves." Why does the Torah not tell us the date of Shavuos? Why does the Torah force us to calculate 50 days from the start of our counting of the Omer to figure out when Shavuos is?

The Torah is composed of two parts: The written law, the Torah as we see it written in Tanach, and the Oral law, the elaborations, explanations and clarifications of that found in the Tanach, which we have nowadays as the Talmud. G-d gave both the Oral and the Written law to the nation of Israel at Sinai. The Oral law was transmitted from generation to generation until the point where the Sages were worried that we would forget it. They preserved it first as the Mishna, which was a concise, systematic compilation that was to serve as a memory device for later generations. However, later generations began to forget even more, and the Sages determined that writing down even more was necessary. Today, we have this as Gemora. Hashem gave these two parts of the Torah, as mentioned, to us at Sinai. That we acknowledge and believe that G-d gave the Torah in its entirety to us at Sinai is essential.

It is to illustrate how central a role the Oral Law plays that the Torah does not mention the date of Shavuos. The Torah terms the starting date for the count of the 50 days "macharas HaShabbos," "the day after the Shabbos." The Oral law tells us that this is the second day of Pesach, the "Shabbos" referred to in the verse being the first day of Pesach. The Tzedukim, Sadducees, who did not give credence to the Oral law, explained this verse differently. They explained it to mean literally the day after Shabbos. So, they began counting from the first Sunday after Pesach. (See I: 16)

When we celebrate Shavuos on the day that we do, we are simultaneously affirming our belief in the Oral law. After all, it is only with the clarification that the Oral law provides that we know when Shavuos falls. Shavuos, the holiday on which we celebrate the fact that we have the Torah, is the day on which we acknowledge that we received all of the Torah, both oral and written. (See II: 12) To be sure that we recognize the entirety of the Torah, G-d omitted the exact date on which we celebrate from the written Torah. Only by relying upon the Oral law can we celebrate Shavuos in its proper time. This Shavuos, we should all merit inspiration by the realization that G-d entrusted us with an amazing gift: the Torah.

Check out all of the posts on the Shavuos! Head over to http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov to find the newly redesigned YomTov Home Page, and click on the holiday you are interested in to find all of the archived posts on that topic.


For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.


 


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