During Shavu'ot, during Shmoneh Esreh and bentching we refer to the holiday as Z'man Matan Torateinu - "The time of the giving of our Torah"

Discounting the discussions of the exact calendar date of Shavu'ot, itself, we are close enough to coordinating the date of Shavu'ot with the date of the gathering at Mt. Sinai to hear the Ten Commandments. The 10 Commandments is not the entire Torah as we have it (I.e. - all 5 Books). 40 days later, Moses was given just the 2 tablets - also, not the entire Torah.

It seems that the entire Torah in the form that we have it must have occurred close the day of Moses's death, as the last story mentions his death. I am aware of various opinions that discuss who wrote it - whether it was Moses himself or Joshua. But, as I understand it, it was written close to Moses death, either way. It doesn't seem sensible that Moses would have written about his death 40 years in advance while still at Mt. Sinai.

So, does the phrase "receiving the Torah" when referring to Shavuot refer to some other definition of "Torah"? What do we mean? What was actually "given"?

  • מה ענין שמיטה אצל הר סיני? עיין רש"י שם. Commented May 20, 2015 at 17:13
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    Wikipedia on Torah: It has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books of the twenty-four books of the Tanakh, it usually includes the rabbinic commentaries, the term Torah means instruction and offers a way of life for those who follow it, it can mean the continued narrative from Genesis to the end of the Tanakh, it can even mean the totality of Jewish teaching, culture and practice en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah
    – Double AA
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 17:31
  • @Mefaresh You're relying, perhaps, on the fact that you know that I am a Torah reader, and, while Rash"i is not in the Torah, (it might make reading a bit easier if it were ;-) I happen to recall where that Rash"i is. For purposes of other M.Y. readers, you might wish to translate and provide the location of that Rash"i.
    – DanF
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 19:16
  • @Mefaresh I read the Rash"i, and I don't see its full relevance to my question. It just confirms that all the Mitzvot were said to Moshe at Mt. Sinai. But, Moshe was on the mountain for 40 days. Even if we translate "Torah" as meaning "all the mitzvoth", they still would not have been "given" only on the day of Shavuot.
    – DanF
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 19:27
  • Maybe "receiving the Torah" refers to some other definition of "receiving", i.e. that Shavu'ot marks the accepting of the Torah formally as a binding system of law ("Na'aseh ve-Nishma").
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 0:42

4 Answers 4


The Ramchal in Da'as Tevunos siman 158 s.v. ומה שיש לנו לדעת (p. 170 in Friedlander edition) explains that the the spiritual ability to keep the Torah is what was given to the Jewish people at Har Sinai. In the following paragraph, ותראי, he writes:

ותראי כי זה מה שעשה האדון ב"ה לישראל בהר סיני, שהנה לא נתן להם שם התורה כולה במעמד ההוא, אבל הייתה הכנה כוללת לכל עבודת המצוות... ואז נתן להם תחילה הכוח לשמור כל מצוותיו, ושמעשיהם בעבודתו יעשו הפרי הטוב המצטרך לתיקון הבריאה

And see, that this is what Hashem did for Yisroel at Har Sinai, as behold He did not give them the entire Torah there in that encounter, but it was the general preparation for the entire avodah of mitzvos... and then He gave them first the ability to keep all the mitzvos, and that their actions in His avodah would have positive effects to repair all of creation...

In footnote [46], R' Chaim Friedlander comments:

לכן אנו מחיסים את קבלת התורה למעמד הר סיני, אף אל פי שרק חלק מן המצוות ניתן בהר סיני וכו

And therefore we associate receiving the Torah with the standing at Har Sinai, even though only a fraction of the mitzvos were given at Har Sinai...

So the ability to keep Torah, and the spiritual connection to the mitzvos which causes our actions to have cosmic effect, were the "giving of the Torah" that are referred to.

  • Good stuff; thanks. Is the edition that you quoted from translated in English. If not, IIRC, there is a side by side Hebrew / English translation of Ramchal's works, but if you know who the publisher is, please comment. Happy Shavu'ot.
    – DanF
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 14:16
  • @DanF there is a translation of Da'as Tevunos, but R' Chaim Friedlander's printing, with his extensive notes, does not have a translation as far as I am aware. Commented May 21, 2015 at 18:31

The Beis HaLevi in Parshas Yisro writes:

וכמו שאמרו בבבא מציעא (נט, א) ״לא בשמים היא״, רק היא כמו שמסכימים ב״ד שבזה העולם, וכו'. וזהו שאומרים ״מתן תורתנו״, ולא ״מתן תורה״, דתורתנו הפירוש שנעשית שלנו

Shavuos is called the time of Matan Toraseinu - the giving of our Torah, as it is the time when the Torah became ours, and the principle of לא בשמים היא, the Torah is not in Heaven, took effect, giving us jurisdiction over the Torah.

So the idea of it being the "giving" of the Torah is not the transmission of the content of the Torah, but rather the transfer of ownership of the Torah - the Torah became ours on Shavuos.

  • Where's Matan here? You only refer to תורתנו which is very rarely used. THe Torah says ואתן לכם את התורה it doesn't say תורתכם anywhere. 2. The Midrash says כפה עליהם הר כגיגית - invalidating your whole idea. 3. Some partial ownership was only accepted some 1500 years later by לא בשמים היא, beforehand it was בשמים.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 6:55

I think the end of the question is key. What we call the giving of the Torah is really a code word for us having an ability for a direct relationship with Hashem, in a new reality which fosters us to understand Him better, in a more open way.

This way, R' Moshe Shapiro in Thursday night shiur, often cites kabbalistic seforim that the 10 Commandments correspond to the 10 Pronouncements with which the world was created (as it states in a mishna in Avos). The correspondence is that each fundamentally established a reality, and we exist in that 2nd reality, created by the 10 Commandments.

Shavuos is the beginning of our relationship to Hashem finally reaching the level of direct interaction of the highest level, where the entire nation experienced a simultaneous prophetic revelation. This is what we are celebrating, referring to the G-d's Plan of Creation as the Torah, and our ability to comprehend it as the time of it's giving.


Torah and Sefer Torah are not the same thing. Recall the famous Medrash of the letters of the Aleph Beis coming in front of Hashem and asking that he make the world with them. At the end the letter Beis won out while Aleph was told that the Torah would be given with it. Thus the Torah starts with the Beis while the Luchos start with Aleph.

Before Moshe was Niftar he wrote the Sefer Torah, or according to some, he wrote as events transpired. However, the Torah (the rules) was given at Mount Sinai. Moshe Rabbeinu stayed there for forty days to learn it. Parshas Mishpatim is clearly a continuation of the same conversation of the previous Parsha — which took place at Mount Sinai.

The Sefer Torah is the written record, but the Torah itself — besides for certain Halachos — were given at Mount Sinai to Moshe Rabbeinu who then taught it to us.

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