Shavuot: What is it all about?
First Rosh Hashanah was around the corner, then Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Pesach. They have all flew past, and now Shavuot is on the very near horizon. With Torah Letzion’s help, I have been privileged to spend all of these chagim in Jerusalem, enjoying the unique atmosphere of each chag and the excitement that surrounds them. I have had the chance to discover many new angles of looking at the chagim, which I have been celebrating for eighteen years.
Recently, one of my teacher raised a fundamental question about Shavuot from the Akeidat Yitzchak, R’ Yitzchak ben Moshe Arama; a question that I never wondered before. How come Shavuot, the holiday know by children and adults alike as a remembrance for Matan Torah, is not specified in the Torah as a remembrance of Matan Torah? Rather, in the description of Shavuot in Parshat Emor, Shavuot is identified as the culmination of the seven weeks of the omer, as well as a day when the Shtei Halechem, the two loaves bread offering, is offered. Where does ‘the day of Matan Torah’ fit in?
R’ Arama answers his question quite clearly. Remembering the Torah is not for a specific time or place. It is not like Pesach, when we are remembering the event of Yetziat Mitzrayim. It is not like Sukkot, when we are remembering how Hashem shielded us in the desert. Remembering the Torah is not an event of the past: it is an event of the present, of today. We are commanded that every day the Torah must be new to us like it was given that day. This aspect is hinted to in the description of the shtei halechem offering of Shavuot: “vehikravtem mincha chadashah laHashem” (Vayikra 23:16). The Kli Yakar, R’ Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, explains that the Torah specifies this offering as a mincha chadashah, because the mincha is a hint to the Torah. , which also must be chadashah (new) each day. Shavuot is not hinted as the day of Matan Torah; rather, as a reminder of the constant renewal of Torah every day.
This idea can further applied to the discussion of which day the Torah was given, whether on the 6th of Sivan or 7th of Sivan. How could it be that the date of Matan Torah, which seems so integral to our lives, is unclear? Perhaps it is because the date is not crucial to the message of Matan Torah. Torah was also given today, and yesterday, and will be given tomorrow as well.
Therefore, Shavuot is not just a remembrance of a day. It is a reminder to us of our own personal Matan Torahs. Thank G-d, each morning in Michlalah I start a new day of learning, expanding my knowledge and my thinking. There is something new to find in Torah every day, and it is that gift which we are celebrating on this holiday of Shavuot.
Student Studying in Michlalah