Shavuot: Strange Bedfellows
Chanukah and Purim. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret. The aforementioned holidays form natural units. When one thinks of Shavuot, the natural association is Pesach. After all, Shavuot has no independent date; it is 50 days after Pesach, a fact we highlight during each and every of the forty-nine intervening nights. The entire purpose of the Exodus was to arrive at Sinai and accept the Torah. Not only are Pesach...Continue Reading »
Shavuot: Why Were We Chosen?
"It was taught in the name of Rabbi Meir: Why was the Torah given to the Jewish people?" (Beitzah 25a). The simple answer—made famous by a Midrash that is taught at a very young age in all Jewish schools—is that we wanted to. "The Lord came from Sinai and rose from Seir unto them, He shined forth from Mount Paran (Devarim 33:2)...Rav Yochanan says: This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, offered the Torah to...Continue Reading »
Shavuot: Whose Torah Is It?
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...Continue Reading »
Shavuot: A New Holiday
The shalosh regalim of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot are a celebration of great historic events coupled with the recognition of G-d's role in our agricultural success. Even if the land of Israel experiences drought and the like, the knowledge that G-d controls nature is quite comforting. These three pilgrim festivals, with their deep ties to the land, resonate differently in the land of Israel than they do in the Diaspora. Hence it is not...Continue Reading »