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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Articles about Shavuot

Shavuot - The Day Hashem Gave Us ...Wheat?

We are supposed to learn Torah in such a manner that it is a continuation of that sacred encounter. Apparently, if too much explicit stress would be put on the one event, we might not see our involvement in the study as a continuation of the process that only began on Har Sinai.
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As the Torah goes through the various holidays in our calendar, the names and practices of the different holidays inform us of their historical significance and the practical steps we must take (Vayikra 23). After discussing Pesach, the Torah details the korban of barley known as the omer and then provides details of the laws of grains. 49 days after celebrating the barley harvest, there is a celebration of the wheat harvest, culminating in the bringing of another grain-based korban, the shtei halechem. In that context, the Torah mentions that on the day the shtei halechem is brought, a yom tov is observed. Nowhere does the Torah state and barely does it hint that this coincides with the giving of the Torah (we can derive from the timing here and in Shemot 20 that they must come at least close to coinciding). There are indications that the holiday has elements that are beyond the matter of the agriculturally based korbanot. Even according to those that who say that sefirat ha’omer is rabbinic when the korban omer is not brought, the holiday of Shavuot is still from the Torah. It also was celebrated in the desert when sustenance was from the manna, not wheat. However, the silence regarding the connection to the giving of the Torah is deafening, and the fact that it, can in theory and did at times, fall out on days other than the 6th of Sivan is perplexing.

The shocking but textually apparent conclusion that Abarbanel and some other commentators take is that Shavuot is actually not a holiday whose point is to commemorate the giving the Torah (although we mention it in tefilla and laining). This is not to say that it is not important to remember that miraculous and formative event. In fact, the Torah requires preserving the collective memories and forbids forgetting them (Devarim 4: 9-10; see Ramban, ad loc.). But on Shavuot, that is not the stress, just as on Rosh Hashana, we do not stress the anniversary of the creation of the world.

The question remains why we would not stress these crucial ideas? The Akeidat Yitzchak says two complementary ideas. The first boils down to the fact that the matter of the giving of the Torah is so basic that there is no separate mitzva to contemplate and commemorate it. He continues with a second idea that the giving of the Torah is to be considered an ongoing event, not one that we see as a one-time historical occurrence.

It is interesting to note that the p’sukim that we referred to before (about remembering the giving of the Torah) are applied by Chazal not to the event but to the words of Torah that we personally learn (see Avot 3:8 and Berachot 22a). We are supposed to learn Torah in such a manner that it is a continuation of that sacred encounter. Apparently, if too much explicit stress would be put on the one event, we might not see our involvement in the study as a continuation of the process that only began on Har Sinai.
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