Ritual Wisdom

Ritual Wisdom 5-29-2020

This Thursday night, May 28, 2020, begins the holiday of Shavuot. In the Diaspora we celebrate two days holiday. In Israel only one day is celebrated.

On Shabbat, which is the second day of Shavuot, we recite the Yizkor prayer, remembering our loved ones who passed away. In Israel, where only one day is celebrated, the Yizkor prayer is recited on Friday. This Shabbat, the Torah readings in Israel and the Diaspora will be different.

Q. Why will the Torah readings in Israel and the Diaspora not be the same on Shabbat?

A. Shabbat which falls on a holiday, we do not read the regular Torah reading, instead we read the holiday Torah reading for that particular holiday. This Shabbat being that it is still the holiday of Shavuot in the Diaspora, we do not read the regular Shabbat reading and read the holiday reading instead. But in Israel only one day of Shavuot is celebrated (Friday) and Shabbat is not a holiday, thus on Shabbat we read the regular Torah reading, Parshat Naso.

The Torah reading for the first day Shavuot is the Giving of the Ten Commandments.

Q. Why is the holiday called “Shavuot“?

AShavuot means weeks. Shavuot is the only holiday for which the Torah didn’t prescribe a specific day in the month. So how do we determine when Shavuot is? The Torah tells us to count seven weeks from the second day Pesach (Passover), for a total of 49 days, and on the 50th day to celebrate the holiday. This is the reason for the name Shavuot, which means weeks.

We mentioned yesterday, that on the first day Shavuot it is customary to eat dairy. We mentioned one reason yesterday.

Another reason for eating dairy is: The Torah tells us, “And Moshe was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18). Milk in Hebrew is “Chalav“. The numerical value of Chalav is 40 (Chet = 8, Lamed = 30, Vet = 2). This alludes to the 40 days Moshe stayed on the mountain receiving the Torah.

Q. The Torah tells us that the Ten Commandments were engraved upon the two Tablets. What is the lesson we derive from this?

A. Letters which are written upon something are not one with the thing they are written on. However, when they are engraved, they become totally united and one with the stone in which they are carved. Similarly, the lesson is that just as the commandments were one with the stone they were carved on, so too, the connection between a Jew and the Torah should be so strong that they become one.

Thursday night, May 28, 2020 we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. We celebrate Shavuot in honor of G-d’s giving the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.
Q. How many years ago did this great once-in-a-lifetime event take place?
A. The Giving of the Torah took place in the Hebrew year, 2448. Today we are in the year, 5780. Thus, the Giving of the Torah was 3332 years ago.
Q. On which day of the week was the Torah given?
A. On Shabbat – fifty days after they came out of Egypt. This is why Shavuot is celebrated on the fiftieth day after the second day of Pesach.
Q. How many names does the holiday of Shavuot have?
A. In addition to the name Shavuot, it is also called, Atzeret; Chag Habikurim (Festival of the First Fruits); Chag HaKatzir (Festival of the Harvest); and Z’Man Matan Torateinu (Season of the Giving of the Torah).
Unlike Pesach, when we eat matzah and perform the seder and Sukkot when we eat in the Sukkah and perform a blessing on the Four Kinds, there are no special laws and requirements which are unique to this holiday, except for the special sacrifices during the time of the Holy Temple. Like other holidays we are prohibited to perform any work, other than cooking and carrying (except on Shabbat).
Shavuot is a one day holiday in Israel and two days in the Diaspora.
Although there are no special Biblical laws which apply to Shavuot today, however, the following customs are associated with Shavuot: 1) We eat dairy on Shavuot. 2) The first night of the holiday is spent studying Torah. 3) Many decorate the synagogue with branches and greenery for Shavuot.
Q. Why do we eat dairy on Shavuot?
A. At Mount Sinai, the Jewish people were given the Ten Commandments along with the rest of the Torah including the laws of Kashrut. As a result, when they returned to their tents after receiving the Torah, they couldn’t use their cooking utensils which they had as they were now “Treif” (non Kosher). They couldn’t make them kosher on that day, because, as mentioned before, the Torah was given on Shabbat and one of the Ten Commandments was to observe the Shabbat and not to perform any work on Shabbat. Without kosher cooking utensils, they had no choice but to eat non cooked dairy on that day. We too, eat dairy on Shavuot to commemorate this event


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