Back to Main Page

Yearning for Matan Torah

By: Mrs Leora Bednarsh

In Parshat Emor the list of the holidays opens with an introduction: “Moadei Hashem asher tikra’u otam mikraei kodesh, eleh hem moadai” (23:2). It then discusses shabbat. Next, there is another introduction: “Eleh moadei Hashem mikraei kodesh asher tikrau otam b’moadam”, followed by the list of all of the holidays, beginning with Pesach and culminating in Sukkot. Why are two introductions needed?

A second interesting point is the treatment of the holiday of Shavuot. While all of the holidays open with the phrase “vayidaber Hashem el Moshe leimor”, Shavuot does not merit its own introduction. In fact, the section discussing Shavuot really seems to be about Sefirat ha’omer, opening with the phrase “u’sefartem lachem mimacharat hashabbat”. Also, there is no specific date given for the holiday, nor is any historical event or even a name given to the holiday.

Rav Yonatan Grossman offers the following insight to answer these questions. If we look closely at the two introductions to the holidays, there is one major difference between them. The introduction that includes Shabbat leaves out the word “b’moadam”, in their time. There is no set date for Shabbat. It doesn’t parallel any natural change in the season or any astronomical event the way that the holidays do. It occurs simply on the seventh day, from the days of creation. Shabbat creates a different consciousness of time, one that is disconnected from the physical world. Through this disconnection we testify that the world was created by God; that it cannot be taken granted as always having existed; that it dates back to the time when God created it from nothing.

Shavuot is somewhat parallel to Shabbat in this way. By not having a set date, it requires that we count, from the bringing of the Omer, seven cycles of seven, to reach the fiftieth day. Although Shavuot is commemorating the event of Matan Torah, we are meant to experience it not as a historical event but as something ongoing, that is happening now, that is connecting us to Hashem and His Torah.

We are now in the time period of Sefirat HaOmer. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein z”l speaks about this time period as being one not only of anticipation for Matan Torah, but also a time of purification from the impurities of Egypt. It was a time when the Jewish nations were climbing out of the depths of impurity to which they had sunk in Egypt. Anticipating receiving the Torah was not enough; they had to prepare themselves for the encounter. Rav Lichtenstein points out that the anticipation and excitement with which we count the days towards that encounter should have an effect on us in the present. The yearning for Matan Torah should impact us and have a transformative effect on us in the present. This is a time for us to be climbing the rungs towards that encounter with Hashem, by working on our midot, our learning, our mitzvot, and our appreciation of all of the gifts that we have, especially the opportunity to learn and live Torah. 




Back to top