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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Articles about Shavuot

Shavuot - A Festival of Oral Tradition

Shavuot, the festival of the giving of the Torah, is a festival of Judaism's oral tradition. It belongs to the Torah scholars in each age. In every generation the Torah is given anew, and this day has the power to allow a renewed acceptance of Torah.
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Shavuot, the festival of the giving of the Torah, is a festival of Judaism's oral tradition. It belongs to the Torah scholars in each age. In every generation the Torah is given anew, and this day, the day upon which the Torah was originally given, is imbued with this unique power. Every year there is a repeat of that which has already been; just as Passover is a time of freedom from bondage, so too Shavuot has the unique capacity to allow a renewed acceptance of Torah in each generation. When we celebrate the Shavuot festival, we are not celebrating a one-time event that took place in the past. Rather, we rejoice in the essence of a day that renews itself every year.

The Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh HaShannah 4:8) says: "When each of the sacrifices is discussed [in the Torah], the word 'sin' is written, but regarding Shavuot 'sin' is not written. In this manner, God was saying to them: 'Because you accepted upon yourselves the yoke of the Torah, I consider you to be completely sinless.' "

The author of "Baal HaEidah" explains this passage as follows: "Regarding each of the sacrifices the Torah writes: 'You shall prepare one goat for a sin offering,' but regarding Shavuot the Torah does not write 'for a sin offering,' but only 'one goat.' " This is because "each year on Shavuot it is like the day on which [the Jewish People] stood before Mount Sinai, and they receive the Torah anew. In the words of R' Yosef, 'But for the influence of this day [how many Yosefs are there in the market place!].' Therefore there is no sin offering on this day." The existence of a reality which renews the receiving of Torah each year is what causes a person's sins to be atoned for anew each year.

There is a renewed acceptance of the Torah. Every time we read in the Torah the verse "Whatever God says we shall do and we shall listen" (Exodus 24:7), there is an additional, renewed acceptance. Each of us enjoys a personal acceptance of the Torah.

R' Yosef says, "But for the influence of this day how many Yosefs are there in the market place!" (Pesachim 68b). On the face of things it is not clear why he says this. After all, "but for the influence of this day" not only would there be no R' Yosef, but the entire world would not be! From here we learn that R' Yosef is not referring only to the giving of the Torah to the entire world on this day; he is also referring to his own acceptance of the Torah, for every person has his own personal acceptance of the Torah.
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