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“?
A. Shavuot 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.