YomTov, Vol. III, # 8
A Lesson from a Date - Shavuos
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
Shavuos, is the holiday on which we celebrate the giving of the Torah to the
nation of Israel.Upon examination, one
would find that the Torah usually lists exactly what day a holiday begins.
For example, by Pesach the Torah tells us (Vayikra 23:6) that "On the
fifteenth day of this month is the Festival of Matzos." However, come Shavuos
we find something different. The Torah writes (Vayikra 23: 15) "and you shall
count for youselves from the day after the Shabbos . . . you shall count 50
days and you shall bring a new Mincha offering to Hashem . . . and you shall
convoke on this very day - there shall be a holy convocation for yourselves."
Why does the Torah not tell us the date of Shavuos? Why does the Torah force
us to calculate 50 days from the start of our counting of the Omer to figure
out when Shavuos is?
The Torah is composed of two parts: The written law, the Torah as we see it
written in Tanach, and the Oral law, the elaborations, explanations and
clarifications of that found in the Tanach, which we have nowadays as the
Talmud. G-d gave both the Oral and the Written law to the nation of Israel at
Sinai. The Oral law was transmitted from generation to generation until the
point where the Sages were worried that we would forget it. They preserved it
first as the Mishna, which was a concise, systematic compilation that was to
serve as a memory device for later generations. However, later generations
began to forget even more, and the Sages determined that writing down even
more was necessary. Today, we have this as Gemora. Hashem gave these two
parts of the Torah, as mentioned, to us at Sinai. That we acknowledge and
believe that G-d gave the Torah in its entirety to us at Sinai is essential.
It is to illustrate how central a role the Oral Law plays that the Torah
does not mention the date of Shavuos. The Torah terms the starting date for
the count of the 50 days "macharas HaShabbos," "the day after the Shabbos."
The Oral law tells us that this is the second day of Pesach, the "Shabbos"
referred to in the verse being the first day of Pesach. The Tzedukim,
Sadducees, who did not give credence to the Oral law, explained this verse
differently. They explained it to mean literally the day after Shabbos. So,
they began counting from the first Sunday after Pesach. (See I: 16)
When we celebrate Shavuos on the day that we do, we are simultaneously
affirming our belief in the Oral law. After all, it is only with the
clarification that the Oral law provides that we know when Shavuos falls.
Shavuos, the holiday on which we celebrate the fact that we have the Torah,
is the day on which we acknowledge that we received all of the Torah, both
oral and written. (See II: 12) To be sure that we recognize the entirety of
the Torah, G-d omitted the exact date on which we celebrate from the written
Torah. Only by relying upon the Oral law can we celebrate Shavuos in its
proper time. This Shavuos, we should all merit inspiration by the realization
that G-d entrusted us with an amazing gift: the Torah.
Check out all of the posts on the Shavuos! Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov to find the newly redesigned
YomTov Home Page, and click on the holiday you are interested in to find all of the archived posts on that
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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