Rosh Hodesh Sivan Torah Essay
On the 6th of Sivan we celebrate Shavuot. Ask any Jewish child what this holiday is about and they will tell you it is when Hashem gave us the Torah. But when we look in the Chumash we do not see Matan Torah mentioned alongside Shavuot. Looking at just the P’shat, Shavuot is depicted as a harvest festival to thank Hashem for the new grain. This seems strange because the Torah tells us the dates of other happenings, including Yetziat Miztrayim which we just commemorated with Pesach! So how do we know that this is the day of Matan Torah? And why doesn’t the Torah mention it?
The simplest answer for how we know that Shavuot is the time of Matan Torah is that Chazal calculated it in the Mekhilta. While laymen may not be able to arrive at this date using just the information given leading up to the event in the Torah, if we count backwards from Yom Kippur (when the second luchot (tablets) were given), using the details of the time between chet ha’egel and the second luchot, given in Dvarim, we too will arrive at Shavuot.
Now that we have calculated the date of Matan Torah, we can also see thematic links between the harvest aspect of Shavuot and the giving of the Torah. The Torah commands us to bring a special offering to mark the wheat harvest, two loaves of bread, ‘shtei halechem’, baked as ‘chametz’. If Matzah is the beginning of the bread making process, before the dough has begun to rise, chametz baked bread is the natural culmination of this process. So too, Pesach marks the beginning of our Exodus, and Shavuot, which we count up to from the second night of Pesach, is the natural culmination of this process with Matan Torah.
Furthermore, Pesach is the time of the barley harvest, the basic grain used to feed cattle. The barley korban on Pesach allows us to start eating the year’s new grain outside the Beit Hamikdash. Shavuot marks the wheat harvest, a superior food. The wheat korban on Shavuot allows us to begin using the new harvest inside the Beit Hamikdash, Chazal describe the farmer’s anticipation during this time as that of ‘a bride awaiting her wedding day’ as he awaits not just the reaping of his fields but the chance for his produce to enter the house of G-d. Similarly, Pesach is metaphorically described as Bnei Yisael’s engagement to Hashem and Shavuot is seen as the wedding. Throughout the omer we eagerly anticipate the moment when Hashem will bring us close to Him through the covenant of Matan Torah.
If Shavuot is so clearly the date of Matan Torah, and the harvest elements of the holiday link so closely to this aspect, why didn’t the Torah just tell us this? We can find an answer in Rashi’s commenatary on Shmot 19:1: “It should have been written: ‘ON THAT DAY’. Why does the pasuk say: ‘ON THIS DAY’? This comes to teach us that the words of the Torah should be considered new to you – as though they were given TODAY!” The Torah is teaching us that Matan Torah is not a single moment in our history, and should not be commemorated as such. Rather, it is an event that needs to permeate every day of our lives. We should not be remembering Matan Torah, we need to live it.