Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Emor

       As we count the days of the Omer and prepare for the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, Parshas Emor conveniently comes up on the weekly parsha schedule. I say conveniently since it discusses all the holidays and special times of the year, including Sefiras Haomer and Shavuos. This gives us the opportunity to study the laws of current events and prepare for the upcoming holiday.    
       When discussing Shavuos, the Torah writes, “וּקְרָאתֶ֞ם בְּעֶ֣צֶם | הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֗ה מִקְרָא־קֹ֨דֶשׁ֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם כָּל־מְלֶ֥אכֶת עֲבֹדָ֖ה לֹ֣א תַֽעֲשׂ֑וּ“You shall convoke on this very day—there shall be a calling of holiness for yourselves—you shall do no work of labor” (Vayikra 23:21). This pasuk is different than every other instance of describing the holidays. By the other holidays, the pasuk uses a variation of the phrase “מִקְרָא־קֹדֶש֙” “a calling of holiness”, while by Shavuos we add in the phrase “בְּעֶ֣צֶם הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֗ה” “on this very day”; what is different about Shavuos that the pasuk uses this phrasing?
       As we have explained several times previously, a significant difference between Shabbos and Yom Tov is that we celebrate Shabbos on the seventh day of a predetermined week; it has nothing to do with the month or year. Since Creation, Shabbos has always been celebrated every seventh day. Yom Tov is different, it is celebrated on a specific day of the month. Before we developed a set calendar, witnesses would come to Beis Din in Yerushalayim to testify that they had seen the New Moon; at that point, the new month would be declared. So while the days of the week were determined by Hashem, when the days fall out is entirely up to us, the Jewish People.
       The Torah gives a specific start date for every holiday besides for Shavuos. Pesach is on the fifteenth of Nissan, Rosh Hashanah is the first of Tishrei, and so on and so forth. After Beis Din declared the month, we would count the appropriate number of days and begin the holiday. Not as predetermined as Shabbos, but still a bit so. Shavuos, however, is even less predetermined than that.
       We are not told a specific date when to celebrate Shavuos, only that it falls out fifty days after Pesach begins. With our modern-day set calendar, this always occurs on the sixth of Sivan; but in the times of Beis Din, depending on whether Nissan and Iyar were 29 or 30 each, Shavuos could fall out anywhere from the fifth to the seventh of Sivan! Therefore, we can’t even count the days of the month until Shavuos begins, all we can do is count the days of the Omer. The only time Shavuos is declared is when we begin the Tefillah for it or recite Kiddush. For this reason, it is only declared a holiday “on that very day”, unlike all the other holidays.

Shabbat Shalom! 

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