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 these questions? 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
R' Meir Leibush Malbim z"l (19th century rabbi of Bucharest and
other cities) writes:
Rambam writes in Moreh Nevochim ("Guide to the Perplexed") that
there are three views regarding the origin of the world. Some
believe that it is very ancient, having formed itself at some
time in the past when conditions were ripe. A second group
believes that some higher being created the world, but did so
with matter that existed previously. The Torah view, in
contrast, is that G-d formed the world "yesh mai'ayin" /
"something out of nothing," not because any outside conditions
required it, but simply because He so chose.
Rambam also cites three views regarding the nature of prophecy.
Some believe that a person need only prepare himself, and
prophecy will come on its own. Others believe that even after
one has prepared himself, prophecy will come only if and when G-d
chooses. Finally, there are those who believe that no
preparation is required, for G-d alone determines who His
prophets will be. Note how each view of prophecy roughly
parallels one of the views of creation in regard to whether G-d
acts alone, circumstances act alone, or the two act in
Interestingly, while the Torah's view is that G-d created the
world from nothing, needing and receiving no help from any other
source, the Torah's view of prophecy is that "G-d does not reveal
his presence except on one who is wise, rich, brave, and humble"
(Nedarim 38a). In other words, prophecy requires preparation.
Although Hashem created the world from nothing, He decreed that
never again would such a miracle occur. Henceforth, He would
work through nature. Thus Chazal tell us that such miracles as
the splitting of the Red Sea were ordained at the time of
creation (see Chazal's comment on Shemot 14:27.) Why? Because
if Hashem would repeatedly change creation it would call into
question creation's perfection and (G-d forbid) that of G-d
One time in history, prophecy was given to those who were not
prepared for it, i.e., when Hashem appered to Bnei Yisrael at Har
Sinai. A new creation was brought into being for their benefit:
Prophecy without prerequisites. Why?
Chazal say that Hashem did leave one aspect of creation
imperfect. As Rashi (Bereishit 1:31) explains, G-d made the
world's permanent existence contingent on one thing. If Bnei
Yisrael had not accepted the Torah when it was offered at Har
Sinai, the world would have returned to its state before
creation. Without Torah, the world cannot exist. It turns out,
therefore, that not until the great revelation at Har Sinai was
the work of creation finished. It is therefore fitting that just
as the world was created by Hashem without preparation, so, when
Bnei Yisrael brought it to completion, they should merit a
similarly miraculous gift.
(Eretz Chemdah: Drush L'Chag Shavuot)
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)
R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z"l (died 1935) writes: Often
a person wants to learn Torah, but he finds that, whatever he is
learning, he would rather be learning something else. One should
know that this feeling comes from the fact that the soul wants to
soar and to encompass everything. The soul does not want to be
limited in any way.
Of course one must deal with this feeling, which, after all,
prevents a person from learning. However, one should not deal
with those "faults" which originate from his good side in the
same way that he tries to completely uproot those faults which
originate from bad.
(Orpalei Tohar p.57)
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 the
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 Siegman family
on the yahrzeit of
Avraham Eliyahu ben Shalom Zelig Perl a"h