Shavuot

Shavuot: A Forced Torah?

Our attitude towards Torah is a most fickle one. On the one hand, we demonstrated great faith in following Moshe into a barren desert; it's a story we recount as we plead for G-d's mercy on Rosh Hashanah. On the other hand, we complained at every turn in that same desert. We jumped at the opportunity to accept the Torah, instinctively declaring "Na'aseh v'nishma," yet 40 days later, we were dancing around a golden calf.

Shavuot: Eating Out

How should one celebrate the receiving of the Torah? The Talmud (Pesachim 68b) quotes a seemingly strange argument as to how to properly celebrate Yom Tov in general, and Shavuot in particular. "Rav Eliezer says, a person on Yom Tov either eats and drinks or sits and learns". One may choose how to celebrate, but that choice must be performed with full dedication. Apparently, he felt that trying to celebrate Yom Tov in two different ways gives neither its proper due.

Shavuot: Messianic Origins

“And these are the generations of Peretz…. Shalmon begot Boaz…and Yishai begot David" (Rut 4:18-22). So ends the Book of Rut, read on Shavuot, detailing the link from Peretz to David, the forerunner of the Mashiach. The birth of Peretz himself is described in sefer Breisheet, and what an unholy birth it was. Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Yehudah, who lost two husbands and found herself in limbo waiting for a third, “took off her widow’s garb and covered herself with a veil” (Breisheet 38:14).

Shavuot: A Long Weekend

Shavuot this year falls on a Sunday. This rather unremarkable observation is of little import today but had we been living in Temple times, or even in the early Middle Ages, this would have spared us much controversy. As is relatively well known one of the most fundamental, fiercest and far-reaching debates the rabbis faced was the dating of the holiday of Shavuot. It is this debate that eventaully led to the establishment of yom tov sheni shel galuyot, the extra day of Yom tov in the Diaspora.
 

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 and Shavuot linked, they are dependent on each other.

Shavuot: An Evolving Torah

“Rav Yossi said: It would have been appropriate had the Torah been given through Ezra, but Moshe preceded him… and even though the Torah was not given by him [Ezra], it was changed by him” (Sanhedrin 21b). The Talmud explains that this change relates to the “font” of the Torah, which was changed from ketav Ivri, the initial font in which the Torah was given, to ketav Ashurit, the “font” we have today in our Torah scrolls.

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 every nation and every tongue, but none accepted it, until He came to Israel who received it" (Avodah Zara 2b).

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 as a meal offering to G-d" (Vayikra  23:15).

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 surprising that, in practice, the length of the festival is different depending on whether or not one resides in the land of Israel.
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