Sfirat Ha'Omer & Shavuot
Written by the rabbi
Dedicated to the memory of
Hana Bat Haim
This week we began counting the days of the omer. The days of the omer are generally understood as a time of preparation for the reception of the Torah, which we celebrate on Shavuot. However, we know well that this is not what the Torah tells us about the omer or about Shavuot. According to the calculation accepted by Jewish law, the Torah was given on the seventh of Sivan while Shavuot generally falls on the sixth of Sivan. It is true that when the Jewish calendar was still based on the observation of the new moon, Shavuot could fall on the seventh of Sivan, coinciding with the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, and the rabbis considered this coincidence as a good sign. According to the Torah, however, Shavuot is not a festival of Torah but a festival of the Holy Temple and of Eretz Israel.
Shavuot was the day that the first wheat of the year was brought to the Temple, baked into sacrificial loaves. It was the beginning of the fruit season - grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates - which would ripen during the summer, the first of which would also be brought to the Temple. The Qumran sect celebrated additional first fruit festivals during the summer: the festival of wine forty nine days after Shavuot and the festival of oil after another forty days. After the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile, Shavuot lost much of its original significance, to the extent that R. Eliezer ruled that with respect to the laws of mourning, Shavuot was not to be treated like one of the pilgrimage festivals but like Shabbat. Shavuot was reinterpreted as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, even though the date of the festival did not coincide exactly with that anniversary.
It is interesting to note that according to the biblical calendar of special days, as understood by the rabbis, the day which expresses connection with Eretz Israel precedes the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. Perhaps, the Torah is teaching us that a true Torah life can be lived only in Eretz Israel.
This is a weekly column contributed by Aloh Naaleh an organization devoted to motivating Jews to make Aliya.
Aloh Na'aleh POB 4337, Jerusalem 91042
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320 ~ Fax: 972-2-566-1186
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