Shavuot: The Holiday of Preparation

Rabbi Sungolowsky

מתן תורה –יום החמישים

In פרשת אמור, פרק כ"ג, the torah states in reference to date of שבועות: "וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת... תספרו חמשים יום והקרבתם מנחה חדשה לה'... וקראתם בעצם היום הזה מקרא קדש יהיה לכם כל מלאכת עבדה לא תעשו". The תורה doesn’t give a specific  calendar date for שבועות to be held, but instead tells us to count fifty days, starting from the עומר, and celebrate  a יום טוב- שבועות- on the 50th day.

The גמרא in ראש השנה notes that in the times of theסנהדרין , when they were מקדש the חודש according to the לבנה, שבועות could come out on either ה', ו' or ז' סיון. This depended on the amount of days in the months of ניסן and אייר; if they both had 30 days, then שבועות was on ה' סיון, if they both had 29 days- שבועות was on ז' סיון. Only if one month had 30 days and the other had 29, would שבועות  fall out on its actual anniversary-ו' סיון. Apparently, it was so important to the Torah to identify שבועות as the יום החמישים, that the Torah was willing to be מוותר on celebrating the actual anniversary of מתן תורה, in order to make the point of   יום החמישים. So what indeed is the lesson that the Torah is trying to teach us by יום החמישים?

In order to answer this question, we need to first understand why there needed to be a fifty day interval between יציאת מצרים and מתן תורה. There are two approaches given:

1)      The מקובלים explain that when בני ישראל  left מצרים, they were at the level of מט' שערי טומאה. In order to be ready to receive the Torah, they needed to work hard for fifty days, each day exchanging another level of טומאה, for a level of קדושה. On the יום החמישים, they were ready to receive the Torah.

2)      The בעלי מוסר explain that in order to receive the Torah, בני ישראל had to first acquire the מח' דברים שהתורה נקנית בהם. Each day they worked on another קנין, and on day 49, they reviewed them all. On day fifty, they were ready to receive the Torah.

The common denominator of these two מהלכים, is that קבלת התורה required הכנה in order to be possible.  One might have thought that this intense הכנה  was a one time thing, necessitated by special circumstances: either because כלל ישראל  at that time started off with מט' שערי טומאה, or because that דור was the דור that accepted the Torah for the first time. However, one might erroneously think that in other times, in different circumstances, הכנה was not crucial. The Torah wanted to preempt this mistake, and show us that there can never be קבלת התורה without preparation. There are no short cuts. הכנה is an indispensable part of קבלת התורה. In order to teach this lesson, the Torah fused the הכנה, the 49 days with קבלת התורה  itself, and identified the יום טוב as the יום החמישים. This showed that הכנה is inseparable from the קבלה itself. So important was this message, that the Torah was ready to be מוותר on celebrating שבועות on the actual anniversary of קבלת התורה- ו' סיון.

The preparation begins on the second day of Pesach with the הקרבת העומר. The עומר is from barley which is מאכל בהמה. Reb Tzadok zt’l explains that by being מקריב it as a קרבן, we are making a statement that we are sacrificing our נפש הבהמית as הכנה for קבלת התורה.


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