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There is nowhere I can see in the tanach that associates Shavuot with Matan Torah.

However, we say in the prayers on Shavuot: "Z'man Matan Toratainu" (the time of the giving of the Torah).

Whenever Shavuot is mentioned in the Torah is it associated with Bikuri'im or the Omer sacrifice.

Why is it that nowadays we have this association of Shavuot to Matan Torah, where is this association mentioned anywhere in Tanach?

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    from sichosinenglish.org/books/sichos-in-english/50/39.htm#n360 -- "Furthermore, according to the Torah, there is no connection between Shavuos and the days of the month. The day on which the holiday is celebrated is determined through the Counting of the Omer." – Menachem Jun 5 '12 at 22:22
  • @Menachem thank you. That seems like it could be a more "correct" answer. – Naftali Jun 6 '12 at 12:54
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+350

Although many good answers exist here already, I want to provide somewhat of a more comprehensive response (as best as I can) by putting all the answers I know of in one place.

There are three overall ways to answer the question "why do we associate Shavuos with Matan Torah if that is not how it is presented in Tanakh?" One can respond either (I) by saying that in reality Tanakh does present Shavuos as such a holiday, (II) the Torah had some reason for hiding this information, but we should still celebrate matan Torah anyways, or (III) our practice reflects some change from how Shavuos was originally celebrated.

I. Tanakh does consider Shavuos as זמן מתן תורתנו

Although it does not say so in the context of the laws of Shavuos, the Torah might have other ways of saying that it really does consider the holiday to be זמן מתן תורתנו:

  1. The most obvious answer is that if you look carefully, the Torah gives us the timeline for the events occurring at Sinai (Shemos 19) and we are supposed to figure it out. Ralbag (to the end of that chapter) writes explicitly that the Torah intends for us to make this connection (although the truth is that it isn't so clear; there is, after all, a dispute in the Gemara about how to interpret the timeline. Also Ralbag doesn't really explain why the Torah had to leave this as an exercise for the reader)
  2. Some scholars see Shavuot celebrated as מתן תורה by King Asa in Divrei Hayamim II 15:8-15, where a re-dedication ceremony is carried out "in the third month," Sivan. Since this ceremony involved oaths, "שבועות," some have proposed seeing this as a pun on the holiday that they were celebrating at the time. (Prof David Henshke argues that this is not really a proof)
  3. A line in Zohar (3:98b) sees the two loaves offered in the Temple on Shavuos as corresponding the two tablets given to Moshe on this day
  4. Yerushalmi Rosh Hashanah 4:5 (and a few other Midrashic sources) note that the he-goat brought on all the festivals as a chatas is called on Shavuos a se’ir ‘izim instead of a שעיר עזים לחטאת or a שעיר לחטאת. This indicates that Shavuos commemorates the giving of the Torah, and the Torah cleanses one from sin, or it is to connect Shavuos to Yom Kippur (when Moshe came down from Sinai with the second tablets)
  5. R. Menachem Leibtag shows that there is a very strong hint to this connection in the sacrifices for Shavuos: it is the only time of the year when Shelamim [well-being] sacrifices are offered for the community. The only other time we find this in the Torah is at the foot of Mount Sinai (Shemos 24:5).
  6. R. Shmuel Cohen (Megadim 4) and R. David Fohrman separately develop a novel idea. They note the Torah’s many parallels between the holiday of Shavuot and the fifty year cycle culminating in the Yovel, or Jubilee indicate that the fifty day count to Shavuot mirrors the Jubilee, and enough biblical parallels exist to argue that the Jubilee itself is a year sanctified to commemorate of Sinai, where God made a covenant with Israel to take them as His people:
    • the first instance of this unusual word “yovel,” Jubilee, is actually in the context of the shofar-blasts heard at the foot of Mount Sinai (Shemos 19:13). The Jubilee year is also inaugurated with a shofar blast on Yom Kippur
    • during the Yovel year it is prohibited to work the land on account of its holiness, just as a ban was placed on nearing Sinai while God’s presence sanctified the mountain
    • the Yovel’s laws requiring that land be laid fallow is a recognition that the land belongs to God (Vayikra 23:25), and the obligation to free one’s slaves expresses that our very persons belong to God (23:55). At the Sinai covenant, God likewise tells the nation through Moshe that they are to belong to Him, “for all the Earth is mine” (Shemos 19:5), and the laws of freeing slaves follows not too long after (Shemos 21)

II. Although the Torah hid this information, we do not

Several commentators ask why the Torah does not have a holiday for מתן תורה and give various answers. Some of these help explain why we would celebrate such a holiday even though the Torah itself does not:

  1. R. Ashterok (quoted in Torah Sheleimah vol. 16 page 282) writes that the Torah does not specify when it was given, because in truth the Torah had existed 'two thousand years before the world was created,' and so from its own perspective the day that it was given to Israel is not as big of a deal. The implication, though, is that the nation of Israel can still celebrate from their perspective when they got the Torah.
  2. Another answer by R. Ashterok, which is also given by R. Yitzchak Aramah (Akeidas Yitzchak, Vayikra no. 67) and many others after them, is that the Torah "must always be new in your eyes," and so we can't have one day a year to celebrate it. However, we could still use this day as a yearly appreciation something that ideally should be recognized daily.
  3. R. Yitzchak Aramah also says that the Torah could not have commanded "that we celebrate the day of its giving and its beginning, if we are not [yet] required to obey it, unless this was already accepted as a prior truth.” There is some logical inconsistency of the Torah teaching about itself being given (but presumably now that it's happened, we can recognize the holiday for what it is).
  4. R. Yehoshua ibn Shueib (Derasha for Shavuos) writes that the Torah was interested in recording what sanctifies the holiday, and in the case of Shavuos, the day is not holy because of the anniversary of a historical event, but rather because it completes the counting of the Omer from Pesach. Thus, we can certainly celebrate it as זמן מתן תורתנו, but that's not what makes the day holy, and so that's not what the Torah discusses
  5. Maharal (Gevurot Hashem Ch. 27) writes that it would be inappropriate for God to obligate rejoicing for getting the Torah which is “a yoke upon our necks.” Based on a similar idea, the Chosam Sofer (Toras Moshe to Vayehi) writes that even though the Torah couldn't have obligated such a holiday, we of our own volition should celebrate it because we can and should appreciate that this "yoke" is actually a great gift.
  6. R. Ovadia Seforno (to Vayikra 23:36) says that we can't celebrate Shavuos as the time of מתן תורה because that particular "giving of the Torah" had failed: the nation ended up making a golden calf and Moshe shattered the luchos. R. Moshe Alshich (to Vayikra 23:6) also writes this way, but adds that we can nevertheless celebrate this day ourselves because God was ready to give us the Torah, and if we are worthy we can accept it anew
  7. R. D.Z. Hoffman writes (among many other ideas he has in a very long piece) that the Torah didn't want to say explicitly what the holiday was about so as not to give credence to the idea that only the ten commandments (which were spoken on this day of מתן תורה) are divine.
  8. R. S.R. Hirsch writes that the time of the giving of the Torah was left out of the Written Torah and instead kept as an oral tradition to emphasize the importance of the Oral Torah. Here's a quotation (Collected Writings, vol. 1 page 198-196):
    • And now, behold! The celebration in remembrance of the Torah, this soul of our soul, our highest good on which is based our whole' existence, and without which all the precious things to which the other festivals are consecrated-freedom and soil, preservation and prosperity, purity and atonement-would lose their essence and meaning,just this celebration in remembrance of the Torah is not mentioned at all, no reference to it is made in the written word of God; it is only to the oral tradition, the תורה שבעל פה, that we owe the Festival of the Revelation of the written Torah, תורה שבכתב, and thus the first memorial of the Written Law directs us to the Oral Law, to tradition. How eloquent is this silence of the Torah concerning its own festival! The Written Law abandons itself if we deny the Oral Law; the Written Law renounces its own existence unless it is preceded by the Oral Law; the Written Law commits the very knowledge of its celebration to the living tradition of the word of mouth handed down from God. Thus the Written Law seeks to be celebrated only in a company of men who are permeated by the living breath of the Oral Law, which is Divine like the written word; and in this way the Written Law itself makes it clear that its very being depends on the existence of the Oral Law. This is the second thought which the silence of the Torah with regard to זמן מתן תורתנו teaches us.

III. Association of Shavuos with מתן תורה came much later in Jewish History

Orthodox Judaism, I'm pretty sure, believes that any of the sages' traditions regarding Shavuos and מתן תורה must have been passed down since Sinai itself. However, it might still be possible to say that the celebration of Shavuos changed since the time of Tanakh:

  1. The Rivash (Teshuvah 96) and Ritva (to Shabbos 86b) both strongly imply that, in fact, Shavuos was not considered the day of מתן תורה for as long as the calendar months depended upon the new moon, since we could never be sure exactly when Shavuos would fall out: would the fiftieth day of the Omer count be the fifth, sixth, or seventh of Sivan? Therefore, Shavuos never really was the holiday of the Torah until the calendar was fixed so that it always falls out on the historical anniversary of matan Torah, which is the 6th of Sivan
  2. R. Menachem Kasher (Torah Sheleimah vol. 21, page 213) suggests that the rabbis only started considering Shavuos to be זמן מתן תורתנו in order to respond to the claim of other sects of Judaism who believed that Shavuos would always be on a Sunday. To ensure that everyone knew that it can actually be any day of the week (because the omer count of fifty days starts from Pesach, instead of from a Shabbos), the Sages wanted to emphasize that it is tied to a historical event, even if the Torah itself did not want to make that connection explicit (maybe because of the failed מתן תורה, like the Seforno explains).
  3. This article suggests that Shavuos used to celebrate the land of Israel, and once that became not as relevant (because so much of the nation wasn't living there anymore), the sages refocused the holiday to center around the fact that it coincides with מתן תורה
  • Why doesn't R' Leibtag count the shelamim in Shemini? They have different halachos than the ones on Shavuos (Kohanim only had to eat the חזה ושוק), but I don't see any proof either way for the ones at Matan Torah. – Heshy Jun 6 at 10:58
  • @Heshy common denominator is initiation. Which initiation would we be celebrating in the beginning of Sivan? – Double AA Jun 6 at 12:22
  • What's the connection between nearing the mountain and working the land? – Loewian Jun 6 at 15:35
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    Abarbanel Vayikra 23: ואין ספק שביום חג השבועות ניתנה התורה אבל לא נצטווה החג על זכירתה וכן תמצא ביום התרועה שנאמר זה היום תחלת מעשיך זכרון ליום ראשון עכ״ז לא נאמר. שע״כ צוה יתברך לעשות יום תרועה זכרון לבריאת עולם אלא להיותו יום הדין. כן הוא בחג השבועות שהוא זמן מתן תורתנו אבל לא נצטוה החג לזכרון זה כי אם להיותו תחלת קציר החטים, – רבות מחשבות Jun 12 at 18:48
  • @רבותמחשבות I was aware of Abarbanel but I wasn't sure how he would answer the question, if it all. Reading the whole piece makes it sound like he doesn't believe Shavuot should be considered zman matan Torah at all, but if that's so it doesn't answer the question – הנער הזה Jun 13 at 2:00
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Rav S.R. Hirsch in the Collected Writings Vol.1 in an article entitled "The Uniqueness of the Torah" writes that the connection between Shavuos and Matan Torah is only stated in the Torah Shebaal Peh in order to teach us that someone who does not accept the Torah Shebaal Peh never has had a Kabolas Hatorah

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As explained in שו"ת הריב"ש 96 and brought in Shulchan Aruch Harav there is no inherent connection between Shavuos and Mattan Torah. Shavuos doesn't happen on a fixed date, and Mattan Torah wasn't even the same number of days after Pesach as Shavuos.

However, since the fixed calendar puts Shavuos on the 6th of Sivan, which is the date of Mattan Torah (according to the Rabbannan Shabbos 86b), therefore we say "Z'man Matan Toratainu." But if it didn't work out that way, it would seem that we wouldn't.

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    What did they say in years when it didn't work out that way (when that was possible)? – Double AA May 4 '18 at 12:57
  • @DoubleAA is it possible that that phrase (or paragraph) was added to the Amida after the fixed calendar was established? – DanF May 4 '18 at 16:32
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Tanakh does not give an explicit date as far as I know, but torah gets it within a few days and the gemara draws the connection.

The Gemara in masechet Shabbat (86-88a) discusses the exact date of matan torah, and the gemara's discussion of what the torah reading and the haftarah are for shavuot reflect choices which point out the commemoration of the Sinaitic revelation (Chabakuk, which Rashi connects to matan Torah, for example). Also, Shmot 19 does point to the third month (Sivan) as the zman of matan torah.

  • I am asking for a Tanach source. The date for shavuot in shemot that people use is all specualtion, it gives no exact date for matan torah. – Naftali May 29 '12 at 14:24
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    @Naftali It may not give an exact date, but even pure pshat of Shemot 19 takes you within a 2 or 3 days of shavuot, which as you may recall has no set date in the Torah either. – Double AA May 29 '12 at 14:35
  • @Naftali why is a source in Na"Ch stronger than Gemara? – yoel May 29 '12 at 14:56
  • @yoel the gemarah makes no connection of shavuot to matan torah whatsoever... – Naftali May 29 '12 at 15:03
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    @yoel I'm afraid I have to disagree with you. It can be very relevant to find out which sources say what about a certain issue. If we conclude that there is no explicit connection to Shavuot in Tanach, then we have to ask either why Tanach left it out, or why Chazal conflated the two (or both)? As I mentioned above, Shavuot has no fixed date in the calendar (5, 6, or 7 Sivan) and we have a machloket in the gemara which day Mattan Torah actually happened (6 or 7 Sivan), so it is clear that the nature of the connection between the two is not straightforward and needs to be better investigated. – Double AA May 29 '12 at 17:05
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The Tanach Study Center has a full discussion.

Key points extracted: (note the use of the word "may" at critical points).

The Shtei HaLechem is the special korban of Shavuot.

It is the only korban 'mincha' offered by the tzibur that is baked as 'chametz.' (All other flour offerings must be baked as 'matzah.')

It is the only time during the entire year when the tzibur brings a korban shlamim i.e. the two k'vasim that are offered with the Shtei HaLechem.

Matzah symbolizes the initial stage of a process, whereas the fully risen 'chametz' symbolizes its completion. Thus, the mitzvah to bake the Shtei HaLechem as 'chametz' may indicate that Matan Torah should be understood as the culmination of the redemption process that began with Yetziat Mitzrayim. Just as the Shtei HaLechem marks the culmination of the wheat harvest, the staple of our physical existence, the historical process that began with the Exodus culminates with Matan Torah, the essence of our spiritual existence.

The first instance where we find a korban shlamim is at the end of Parshat Mishpatim Shmot 24:4-8 when the Torah describes the special covenantal ceremony which takes place at Ma'amad Har Sinai. At this ceremony, Bnei Yisrael proclaim "Na'aseh V'nishma" while entering into a covenant to become God's special nation by accepting the laws of Matan Torah. That ceremony included the offering of special korbanot: olat and shlamim (see Shmot 24:5). The blood from these korbanot, sprinkled both on the mizbayach and on the people, symbolized Bnei Yisrael's entry into the covenant (24:6-8). Thus we find that the very first korban shlamim is offered as a symbol of Bnei Yisrael's acceptance of Matan Torah. A shlamim reflects a joint feast shared by covenental partners. Therefore, the korban shlamim that is presented together with the Shtei HaLechem on Shavuot may serve as a symbolic reminder of Matan Torah.

  • Isn't the pesach (halachically) a shelamim (and arguably the first ever historically)? – Loewian Jun 6 at 15:20
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This is addressed by Ralbag in his commentary to the beginning of Exodus Chapter 19. He writes that even though the Torah does not mention any connection between the holiday of Shavuot and the giving of the Torah, we can deduce the connection. He explains that the date of the giving of the Torah is not stated explicitly, but it could not have been earlier than the third day of Sivan, and it is possible that the Jews had already been camping there for three days prior to the proclamation to prepare for three days, which would place the giving of the Torah on the sixth day of Sivan which is Shavuot. He points out that it is inconceivable that the Torah would give us a holiday to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt yet not give us a holiday to commemorate the giving of the Torah in such a miraculous fashion.

Thus, if we know that the Torah was given some time in the beginning of Sivan, and we know that there must be a holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah, and we know that the holiday of Shavuot occurs in the beginning of Sivan, it is obvious that Shavuot is the holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah.

ולפי שזה יורה כי לכל הפחות יהיה מתן תורה ביום השלישי לחודש השלישי והוא קרוב לזמן חג השבועות כי הוא בששה בסיון והיה אפשר שיהיו ישראל חונים שם שלושת ימים קודם מה שאמר להם משה היו נכֹנים לשלֹשת ימים הנה ראוי שנאמין כי יום מתן תורה היה בששה בסיון ועוד כי הוא מן השקר שתשאיר לנו התורה רושם וזכר לעת שיצאנו בו ממצרים לעשות בו חג המצות ולא תשאיר לנו רושם וזכר לעת שניתנה בו התורה בזה האופן הנפלא ולזה הוא מבואר שחג השבועות הוא בעת מתן תורה והיה זה להזכירנו ענין מתן תורה הנפלא להעמידנו תמיד על האמונה בדברי התורה

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The Torah, itself, does not mention the exact date that the Torah is given, but this can be easily calculated by looking at the story at the beginning of Shemot ch. 20. Summary:

  • 1st day of 3rd month (Sivan) they arrive at Mt. Sinai
  • 2nd Sivan, Moshe goes up to mountain & G-d tells him that Israel should be a nation of priests, etc. Moses relays this to the people, and they answer, Everything G-d says we will do
  • 3rd Sivan, Moshe relays the info to G-d, and G-d says that they should prepare themselves today and tomorrow (i.e. - 3rd & 4th Sivan) and be ready for the 3rd day (i.e. - 5th Sivan.)
  • On 4th Sivan, Moshe returns to the people, and decides on his own to add an extra day as a defense in case men had a seminal emission. (i.e., 3 days of preparation, not 2 as G-d originally told him. See Avot D'rAv Nattan ch. 2

Rashi on Exodus 19:3:1 explains that each time Moshe went up the mountain it was on a different day. (I was wondering about that, as from the text, it seems that Moshe might have made more than one trip per day):

"And Moshe went up" - On the second day. And all of his goings up were at daybreak as it is written (Exodus 34: 4) "Moshe arose in the morning."

Thus, that makes the "3rd day" the 6th day of Sivan.

If you match this up with the commandment to count 50 days from the "morrow of the Sabbath", translated as staring from the 2nd day of Pesach, based on the current calculation of the fixed calendar that we now use, that matches with the 6th of Sivan as well.

In the last sentence of @Yishai's amswer, he seems to refer to a time prior to the fixed calendar when each year, the calendar date of Shavu'ot may be different than that of the previous year, depending on the length of Nissan and Iyar. (They could be both 29, 30, or one 29 and the other 30 days long.)

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