The special offering brought in the Bet Hamikdash on Shavuot
was the "Korban Shtei Ha'lechem"/"The Offering of Two Loaves of
Bread." This offering was brought from wheat.
The gemara (Menachot 69b as explained by Rashi) asks: If a ship
carrying wheat was lifted by a storm and the wheat rained down
from heaven somewhere else, may that wheat be used for the
sacrifice? When the Torah (Vaykira 23:17) required that this
sacrifice be brought "from your dwelling places," did it mean to
exclude wheat that came from outside of Eretz Yizrael or even
wheat that was grown in Eretz Yisrael, but that most recently
came from the heavens?
Why does the gemara even ask this question? R' Avraham Shimon
Halevi Ish-Horowitz z"l (1877-approx.1942; mashgiach of Yeshiva
Chachmei Lublin) wonders. Such an occurrence is far-fetched at
best. Why does the gemara, in general, discuss many far-fetched
He explains: In fact, much of the halachic material in the
Talmud deals with situations that never have and never will
occur. However, the nature of Torah study is to investigate what
Hashem's Will would be in every conceivable situation. When one
studies the Torah, his physical mind attaches itself to the Will
of G-d. Whether one is studying the laws of the animal or flour
sacrifices, the laws of bailments and torts, or the laws of
ritual purity and impurity, it is all the Will of Hashem.
Studying these laws elevates a Jew higher and higher without
limit, whether or not he will ever have an opportunity to
practice what he has learned. (Naharei Eish: Likutei Dibburim
At the time of the giving of the Torah, Hashem said to
Bnei Yisrael, "Give me a guarantor."
They said, "Our ancestors will be our guarantors," but
Hashem rejected them. They said, "Our prophets will be
our guarantors," but Hashem rejected them too.
Finally Bnei Yisrael said, "Our children will be our
guarantors," and Hashem accepted them. Thus it is
written (Tehilim 8:3), "Out of the mouth of babes and
sucklings you have established strength [i.e., Torah]."
(From the Midrash)
R' Yaakov Abuchatzeira z"l (Morocco; 1807-1880) asks: Why does
Hashem need a guarantor that Bnei Yisrael will keep the Torah?
He is everywhere and can easily punish anyone who fails to
observe the Torah's laws! Also, why were the children better
guarantors than the ancestors and the prophets?
He answers: The gemara (Shabbat 88b) relates that when Moshe
ascended to the Heavens to receive the Torah, the angels
objected, saying that the Torah should not be given to mortals.
"What is frail man that You should remember him," they asked (in
the words of Tehilim 8:5, the same chapter as quoted in the above
midrash). Moshe answered the angels by demonstrating that the
Torah contains practical mitzvot which are irrelevant to purely
spiritual beings such as they.
What were the angels thinking? R' Abuchatzeira asks. Surely
they knew that the Torah is made up of practical mitzvot! The
answer is that the angels wanted to divide the Torah in two, with
the practical part of the Torah being given to man and the
mystical part remaining with the angels. No, Moshe told them,
the two parts belong together. Just as the human body clothes
the soul, so the practical side of the Torah clothes the mystical
side. And, just as the soul needs the body in order to function,
so the mystical part of the Torah needs the practical side.
[Based on this idea, R' Abuchatzeira explains the discussion
between Moshe and the angels in greater depth.]
Although the angels acquiesced to Moshe's argument, they were
not convinced that man could be holy enough to receive the Torah.
It was to show the angels their mistake that Hashem demanded
guarantors. Why did He accept the children as guarantors rather
than the adults? Because adults, no matter how holy, have still
sinned. Even the Patriarchs and other prophets were not perfect.
Children, however, are completely pure, for Hashem does not hold
them accountable for their deeds. So pure are they that Chazal
teach that the world exists only because of the Torah study of
(Doreish Tov: Drush Rishon Le'matan Torah)
"Zman Matan Toratenu"
In the prayers and in kiddush, we refer to Shavuot as
"Zman Matan Toratenu"/"The time of the giving of our Torah."
But is it really? It is generally accepted that the Torah
was given on the seventh day of Sivan, while the first day
of Shavuot - the only day in Israel - falls on the sixth of
Sivan! How then can we call the sixth day, "The time of the
giving of our Torah"?
R' Yerachmiel Zeltser shlita has collected 100 answers to
this question, three of which are presented here:
#69. The work Divrei Nechemiah explains: "Zman" does not mean
"day," it means "time." The sixth day of Sivan may not be the
day when the Torah was actually given, but it is the "time" that
is propitious for receiving the Torah anew each year. This is
because Hashem would have given the Torah on the sixth of Sivan
if Moshe had not asked Him to delay one day (as related in the
gemara, Shabbat 87a).
What makes the sixth of Sivan a good time for receiving the
Torah is the fact that it is the "fiftieth day" of the Omer. The
days of the Omer represent the first 49 of the 50 "Gates of
Understanding," and after we have ascended through those 49 gates
we are ready to receive the Torah. The proof that the "time" for
receiving the Torah is determined by the Omer count and not by
the calendar date is the fact that before we had a fixed calendar
(i.e., during the era when the new month was announced based on
witnesses' sighting of the new moon), Shavuot could fall on the
fifth, sixth or seventh day of Sivan.
#41. R' Avraham Mordechai Alter z"l (the "Gerrer Rebbe"; died
1948) explains similarly that our practice is based on the rule,
"That which Heaven gives It does not take away." Thus, once
Hashem planned to give the Torah on the sixth of Sivan, the
resulting spiritual aura became a permanent feature of that day,
even though the Torah was not given then.
#86. Chazal teach that the soul of every Jew who would later be
born was present at the giving of the Torah. Indeed, those
disembodied souls far outnumbered the living people who were
Based on this we can answer: True, the Torah was given on the
seventh of Sivan, but that detail is irrelevant to us (the
embodiment of those souls) because souls exist "above" time. As
far as the soul is concerned, what determines when the Torah
should be given is not the calendar date, but one's preparedness
to receive the Torah. This, as noted above, is determined by the
completion of the Omer count.
(Ner L'meah: Shavuot)
Letters from Our Sages
The following letter was written by R' Yekutiel Yehuda
Halberstam z"l (the "Klausenberger Rebbe"; died 1994) just
before Shavuot 5719 (1959). As is apparent from the letter,
the author was traveling from Israel to his home (Union
City, New Jersey) when he wrote the letter.
The letter is printed in Michtavei Torah, Volume II, page
248 (letter 137). In the first paragraph, the author
appears to compare the pleasant weather that he had left in
Israel with the weather he found in Switzerland, concluding
that one would expect to find unpleasant weather when one is
distanced from the Land over which G-d watches. He then
relates this point to Shavuot.
We have arrived in Zurich in peace, thank G-d. Our trip passed
well, thank G-d; may He allow us to continue on for a good life
and in peace to our home until we can return to our Holy Land,
amen, may it be His Will. Here, the rain has passed, and we
have fallen [in the words of a Talmudic phrase] "from a high
summit to a deep pit." I now understand that which we say (in
the Yom Tov musaf), "Because of our sins we were distanced from
our Land," as Chazal have said, "Why is it called 'Eretz'/'Land'?
Because it wants/'ratzah' to do the Will of its Creator." This
refers to our Holy Land, and is a result of its spirituality.
"We were distanced from our Land," i.e., from the "Land that
flows with milk and honey."
The Bach (R' Yoel Sirkes z"l; 1560-1640) writes in chapter 208
regarding the words [in the berachah which is said after eating
one of the Seven Species], "And satiate us from its [i.e., Eretz
Yisrael's] goodness," that the fruits of Eretz Yisrael have in
them holiness, whereas in the Diaspora [in the words of Devarim
31:20], "You will eat, be sated, and grow fat, and turn to gods
of others." . . . This is why we are obligated by halachah to
have a remembrance of the destruction of the Temple [and the
resulting exile] during every meal. [See Shulchan Aruch, O.C.
This is why [in the words of Pesachim 68b], "All agree that
Shavuot must be partially 'For you'" [i.e., one must have good
food on Shavuot, whereas some sages hold that this is not
required on other holidays]. This represents our understanding
that through receiving the Torah one merits to eat from the table
of our Father. Maybe this is why we eat dairy on Shavuot, to
show that in the merit of accepting the Torah we earn the Land
that flows with milk and honey.
The family of Russell Kwiat
on his earning an M.B.A.
The Sigeman family
on the yahrzeit of
Avraham Eliyahu ben
Shalom Zelig Perel a"h
The Unger family
on the first yahrzeit of
Dr. Saly Unger a"h