Jewish Content   Holidays   Shabbat   Chabad-houses   Chassidism   Subscribe   Calendar   Links B"H

High-Holidays   |   Chanukah   |   Purim   |   Passover   |   Shavuot

Shavuot   |   Shavuot-Guide Map



   
Introduction

Shavuot Schedule

What Is Shavuot?

The 10 Commandments

Cheese Blintzes Recipe

All Night Study

The Sinai Files

Thoughts & Essays

   Baal Shem Tov

The Extra Day

Real Estate and Shavuos

What Happened At Sinai?

From Sinai To Mashiach

Our Response

The Present And Past

Standing United

The Secret Of The Festivals

Stories

Customs

 
 The Present And Past The Secret Of The Festivals


Standing United

Publisher's Foreword

When Moshe saw the burning bush, he said: " 'I will go there and see this wondrous matter.' When G-d saw that he turned away to watch, He called to him." [1]

When did G-d choose Moshe for a leader? When he demonstrated the capacity to appreciate the uniqueness of the phenomena which he encountered.

Similarly, "the extensions of Moshe in every generation," [2] have demonstrated an ability to recognize the uniqueness of situations and point them out to others.

The Rebbe manifested this capacity time and time again, pointing out factors which others, even Torah leaders of note, failed to recognize.

The sichah which follows reflects the Rebbe's appreciation of the ramifications of the crossing of the international dateline with regard to the Counting of the Omer and the celebration of the holiday of Shavuos, reaching a startling conclusion, but one which is mandated by the logic of Halachah.

Moreover, he points out the parallels to these concepts in our Divine service, showing how Nigleh, the revealed dimensions of Torah law, is intertwined with our spiritual strivings.

May the study of the Rebbe's teachings enable us to accomplish the spiritual mission with which he has charged us. And may our efforts draw down overtly apparent Divine good and blessing, including the ultimate blessing, the coming of the Redemption, and the fulfillment of the prophecy, [3] "And those who repose in the dust will arise and sing."

Sichos In English
10 Iyar, 5755

Footnotes:

  1. (Back to text) Shmos 3:3-4.

  2. (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 42.

  3. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 26:19.


Each Person as an Individual

As has been mentioned on several occasions, [1] the Counting of the Omer is a preparation for the giving of the Torah. Therefore, directly after the conclusion of the 49 days of the Counting of the Omer, Shavuos, the festival commemorating the giving of the Torah, is celebrated.

The connection between Shavuos and the Counting of the Omer is underscored by the fact that both relate to every Jew individually.

To explain:

With regard to the Counting of the Omer, the Talmud [2] emphasizes that the counting is incumbent on every single person as an individual (in contrast to the Counting of the Shemitah and Yovel [3] years which are counted by the Jewish Court). [4]

Similarly, with regard to the giving of the Torah, the revelation was not merely for the Jewish people as a whole, but for every individual Jew.

This is reflected in the wording of the commandment: [5] "I am G-d, your L-rd," which uses the singular form of the term "your L-rd."

The commandment was addressed to every person individually, for G-d grants the Torah to every Jew individually, as it were He conveys to each person the obligation to study the Torah, and to observe the 613 mitzvos, [6] and empowers him (as implied by the term E-l-o-h-e-c-h-o) [7] to fulfill that obligation.

What We Can Do and What Is Above Our Capabilities

Based on the connection between the Counting of the Omer and Shavuos, the Alter Rebbe explains [8] the apparent contradiction between the command: [9] "And you shall count 50 days," and the fact that in practice, we count only 49 days.

By counting the 49 days, and in this manner, drawing down 49 Gates of Wisdom, we prepare a setting for the fiftieth gate to be drawn down, bringing about the revelation of the Giving of the Torah. [10]

On each day of the Counting of the Omer, a different Gate of Wisdom is drawn down.

(This enables us to understand the wording used when counting the Omer: one day..., two days..., three days..., i.e., a number that includes the previous days, rather than "the first day, the second day, the third day. For every day includes the previous days and the Divine energy that they drew down. On the first day, we have access to the first Gate of Wisdom, on the second day, we have access to two gates, each day, adding another gate to those accessible previously.)

The fiftieth gate, however, cannot be drawn down by our own initiative. It represents a potential which cannot be attained by the Divine service of created beings. Nevertheless, our endeavor to draw down the 49 Gates of Wisdom creates a setting in which the fiftieth gate is drawn down on its own initiative.

For this reason, it is considered as if we have counted "fifty days," for the fiftieth gate is made accessible to us through our preparatory service of counting "seven perfect weeks." [11]

Two Dimensions to the Holiday of Shavuos

The fiftieth Gate of Wisdom, drawn down on the fiftieth day of the Counting of the Omer, shares a connection to the Giving of the Torah.

There is, nevertheless, a distinction between them.

Thus, the Alter Rebbe rules [12] that the description of Shavuos as "the season of the giving of our Torah," [13] is appropriate at all times only in the present era when we follow a fixed calendar and the holiday of Shavuos is always celebrated on the sixth of Sivan, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. [14]

When, however, the monthly calendar was established by the testimony of witnesses with regard to the sighting of the moon, Shavuos, the fiftieth day of the Omer, could also fall on the fifth of Sivan (if both Nissan and Iyar were months of 30 days) or on the seventh of that month (if both Nissan and Iyar were months of 29 days). [15]

For, as reflected in this week's Torah reading, the observance of holiday of Shavuos is not dependent on a particular day of the month as is the observance of the other holidays, but on the conclusion of the counting of the Omer.

In that era, when Shavuos would fall on a day other than the sixth of Sivan, it was not referred to as "the season of the giving of our Torah." [16]

From the above, two things are evident:

  1. The giving of the Torah is associated with the fiftieth day of the Omer, the day on which the fiftieth Gate of Wisdom is drawn down;

  2. The giving of the Torah is associated with the sixth of Sivan, [17] and it is because of that date that we refer to the holiday as "the season of the giving of our Torah."

The difference between these two dimensions of the holiday with regard to our Divine service can be explained as follows:

The aspect of the giving of the Torah which is associated with the fiftieth day of the Omer comes after man's Divine service. It is true that our Divine service is not sufficient to draw down the fiftieth gate of wisdom. That comes as a result of G-d's initiative. Nevertheless, that Divine initiative comes after man has completed his Divine service to the fullest extent of his capacity. [18] After counting the 49 day of the Counting of the Omer, man has made a vessel that is appropriate to receive the influence of the giving of the Torah.

The aspect of the giving of the Torah which is connected with the sixth of Sivan, by contrast, is not at all connected with man's Divine service. It refers to an initiative that stems only from the Torah itself. The time for this initiative is the sixth of Sivan. [19]

When Past and Present Meet

The fact that the two dimensions to the holiday of Shavuos, the fiftieth day of the Counting of the Omer and the sixth of Sivan, are not necessarily dependent on each other is not relevant only in the era when the calendar was established according to the testimony of witnesses.

According to the fixed calendar we follow, Nissan always has 30 days, and Iyar, 29; thus, Shavuos will always fall on the sixth of Sivan. There are, however, situations in which an individual person is required to celebrate Shavuos on the fifth or the seventh of Sivan in the present age as well. [20]

To explain:

Since the earth is shaped like a globe, [21] and the sun (upon whose movement the determination of the days depend) travels across the earth's horizon, there must be a line on the earth (the international dateline) at which the days differ.

A person standing on one side of that line is in the midst of a different day than the person on the other side of the line. By crossing that line, a person skips a day, as it were. Thus if a person goes from east to west, he will proceed from Sunday to Tuesday.

Conversely, when a person goes from west to east, moving opposite to the sun's pattern, he will repeat a day, e.g., he will have two Sundays.

Ordinarily, these concepts do not effect our ritual observance. With regard to the Counting of the Omer, however, the crossing of the dateline makes a significant difference.

As mentioned above, the counting of the Omer is a mitzvah which is dependent on every person as an individual.

Thus when a person crosses the dateline in the middle of counting the Omer, he must continue according to his own personal reckoning although everyone around him is counting a different day.

For example, Pesach falls on Shabbos. On Monday, the second day of the Counting of the Omer, a person travels from east to west [e.g., from the U.S. to Australia]. Although he left on Monday, when he crosses the dateline, it will be Tuesday. That night [the night between Tuesday and Wednesday], he is required to count the third day of the Omer, while the local people will be counting the fourth day.

Conversely, if a person crosses the dateline while traveling from west to east, leaving Monday and arriving on Monday, on the night between Monday and Tuesday, he must count the third day of the Omer, although the local people will be counting the second day.

The rationale is that, as explained above, the Counting of the Omer is not incumbent on the Jewish people as a collective entity, but instead, is incumbent on every individual as an individual. Everyone must count the days which he has experienced from the beginning of the Counting of the Omer. [22]

An individual must observe the Shabbos and the other festivals according to the reckoning of the locale in which he is found at that time. The fact that he crossed the dateline is not at all significant. The seventh day of the week is the same for all, for the determination of that day is not dependent on an individual's reckoning, [23] but on the passage of the days of week.

Similarly, the observance of Pesach, Sukkos, Rosh HaShanah, and Yom Kippur is dependent on the calendar which was established by the Sanhedrin for all Jews universally. (Today, this depends on the fixed calendar.)

With regard to the Counting of the Omer, however, since this mitzvah is incumbent on every individual as an individual, a person must count the days which he himself experiences. [24]

Celebrating Shavuos on a Different Day Than Everyone Else

As the Torah relates, [25] the holiday of Shavuos is not dependent on a particular day of the month, but on the Counting of the Omer. The fiftieth day of the Omer is celebrated as Shavuos. For this reason, as mentioned previously, when the calendar was established according to the testimony of witnesses, it was possible for Shavuos to fall on the fifth, the sixth or seventh day of Sivan.

The intent is not that the Counting of the Omer (or the obligation to count the Omer) brings about the holiday from Shavuos. For even individuals who were not obligated to count the entire Omer, for example, a minor who came of age or a person who converted during the Counting of the Omer, are obligated to celebrate the holiday of Shavuos on the fiftieth day after Pesach according to Scriptural law.

Moreover, there are opinions - and indeed, they are accepted as halachah - [26] which maintain that, in the present era, the Counting of the Omer, is merely a Rabbinic obligation.

The holiday of Shavuos, by contrast, is according to all opinions mandated by Scriptural law. Were the holiday of Shavuos to be totally dependent on the Counting of the Omer, the question would arise: How is it possible for these individuals to celebrate Shavuos when they did not count the Omer previously?

The explanation that the holiday is brought about by the Counting of the Omer by the Jewish people as a whole is unacceptable. For as mentioned above, there is no such concept as the Counting of the Omer by the Jewish people. Our Sages define the Counting of the Omer as a mitzvah which relates to the individual, and not to the collective.

Therefore, we must conclude that the holiday of Shavuos is not brought about by the Counting of the Omer. Instead, the explanation must be that the need to observe the holiday is mandated by Scriptural law, the time when that holiday is observed is determined by the Counting of the Omer.

Nevertheless, as stated above, the Counting of the Omer serves as an indicator on an individual basis; when each person completes his the Counting of the Omer, on the following day, he celebrates Shavuos.

As such, even when a person's Counting of the Omer concludes before or after the Counting of the Omer of others, this determines when he will celebrate Shavuos. [27]

We cannot say that with regard to the Counting of the Omer, the person should follow an individual reckoning, but with regard to the celebration of Shavuos, he should celebrate the holiday with the others around him, for the determinating factor of when Shavuos should be celebrated is the Counting of the Omer. And the Counting of the Omer is given over to each individual as an individual, not to the Jewish people as a collective. [28]

The above applies to the celebration of the holiday of Shavuos.

Nevertheless, if a person is forced to celebrate that holiday on a date other than the sixth of Sivan, he should not refer to it as "the season of the giving of our Torah." For that description is appropriate only to the sixth of Sivan.

This applies even when a person crosses the dateline after Rosh Chodesh Sivan - and thus he celebrates Shavuos on the sixth day after he celebrated Rosh Chodesh, the rationale being that the fixation of the dates of the calendar is not an individual matter.

The Halachic Ruling

Based on the above, the following conclusions can be reached.

When someone crosses the dateline from west to east, the fifth of Sivan is the fiftieth day of his Counting of the Omer. As such, he must observe Shavuos on that day with regard to all matters except the reference to the holiday as "the season of the giving of our Torah."

If he lives in the diaspora, he should observe the sixth of Sivan as the second day of the holiday.

Conversely, if someone crosses the date line from east to west, he should observe Shavuos on the seventh of Sivan. If he lives in the diaspora, he should observe the eighth of Sivan as the second day of the holiday.

From The Material To The Spiritual

The above concepts are reflected in our Divine service.

The Divine service appropriate for the Counting of the Omer is the refinement of our emotional qualities.

We count seven weeks corresponding to the seven emotional qualities, and 49 days (7x7), for each of these qualities is interrelated with the others.

The objective is to make these weeks - and the corresponding emotional qualities - "perfect."

When a Jew finishes the refinement of his emotional qualities, he is granted the Torah as a gift from Above. This is totally dependent on him; it makes no difference what is happening with the people around him.

When he has refined his 49 emotional qualities, he is granted the Torah, the fiftieth Gate of Knowledge, even though the others around him have not reached that degree of preparation.

Conversely, if his personal process of refinement is slower and he has not refined his emotional characteristics, he must wait until he has completed his task of refinement, although those around him are being granted the Torah.

This, however, refers only to the dimension of the giving of the Torah which is dependent on man's Divine service. The ultimate aspect of the giving of the Torah transcends any connection to man's Divine service.

Whether or not a person has refined his emotional qualities, this level is revealed for all without distinction on the sixth of Sivan, "the season of the giving of our Torah." [29]

(Adapted from Sichos Chag HaShavuos, 5717 and 5721)

Footnotes:

  1. (Back to text) See the sichah to Parshas Shemini in this series and the sources cited there where this concept is explained.

  2. (Back to text) Menachos 65b; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 489:1. See also the sichos to Parshas Bamidbar in this series.

  3. (Back to text) Sabbatical and Jubilee.

  4. (Back to text) Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Shemitah VeYovel 10:1.

  5. (Back to text) Shmos 20:2. See the commentary of the Ramban, and the Pesikta Rabasi 21:6.

  6. (Back to text) See Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 29; Kuntres Acharon, the passage beginning Lehavin Pratei HaHalachos.

  7. (Back to text) As mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 5:1), the name E-l-o-h-i-m is associated with G-d's potential as "the Master of strength and power."

  8. (Back to text) Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar 10d, Shir HaShirim 35:3.

  9. (Back to text) Vayikra 23:16.

  10. (Back to text) For through the revelation of the fiftieth Gate of Wisdom, the level of Anochi, [the level associated with the Giving of the Torah,] is drawn down.

    The fiftieth Gate of Wisdom is associated with the Giving of the Torah despite the fact that [during the time when the calendar was established by the sighting of the moon], it was possible for the fiftieth day of the Counting of the Omer to be the fifth or the seventh of Sivan and for Shavuos to be celebrated on that day, rather than the sixth of Sivan, the anniversary of the Giving of the Torah (Rosh HaShanah 6b).

    As are all the concepts of P'nimiyus HaTorah, this concept is also alluded to in Nigleh, the revealed discipline of Torah law. Thus Shavuos is described as "the day on which the Torah was given" (Pesachim 68b, the Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 4:8).

    See also the comments of the Divrei Nechemiah (Hashlamus LiShulchan Aruch HaRav, sec. 581, Kuntres Acharon).

    Nevertheless as pointed out in notes 14 and 16, there are differences between the Shulchan Aruch HaRav and the Divrei Nechemiah.

  11. (Back to text) Cf. Vayikra 23:15.

    There is an alternate explanation of the expression "count fifty days" which fits the wording of the verse more closely, showing how our endeavor to count also includes the fiftieth day.

    There are several levels within the fiftieth gate. For each person individually, the level which is above his comprehension is considered as the fiftieth gate, while for another person who is more developed, this level is included wit hin the 49 gates and, for him, the fiftieth gate refers to a still higher peak.

    Moreover, this same concept exists with regard to a person himself. For a person must constantly endeavor to ascend to higher spiritual rungs. Thus after counting - and attaining - 49 levels of holiness, he must begin an ascent to 49 levels on a higher plane. And with regard to this higher plane, the level which he originally considered the fiftieth rung, above his comprehension, can now be attained by him through his Divine service of counting (Sichos Shabbos Parshas Bechukosai, 5722, based on the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, as cited by Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Parshas Devarim).

  12. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch HaRav 494:1.

  13. (Back to text) Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 250, 253, 258.

  14. (Back to text) For the Halachah follows the opinion of the Sages and not of Rabbi Yossi (Shabbos 86b).

    This explanation does not follow the approach of the Divrei Nechemiah (loc. cit.).

    The Divrei Nechemiah's hypothesis that the Torah was given on the seventh of Sivan is based on the Alter Rebbe's statement (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 430:1) that the Jews left Egypt on Thursday. This hypothesis is refuted by the Alter Rebbe's own words (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 494:1), where he states that even the Sages maintain that the Jews left Egypt on a Thursday. In that year, both Nissan and Iyar contained 30 days. See also the Machtzis HaShekel (494) who states that even the Sages agree that the Jews left Egypt on a Thursday.

  15. (Back to text) Rosh HaShanah (loc. cit.)

  16. (Back to text) This also differs from the conclusion of the Divrei Nechemiah (loc. cit.) who maintains that even when Shavuos was celebrated on a day other than the sixth of Sivan, it was referred to as "the season of the giving of our Torah," because at that time the fiftieth Gate of Wisdom is revealed.

    Questions are also raised by the Divrei Nechemiah's statement that despite the fact that the Torah was given 51 days after the exodus from Egypt, every year Shavuos is celebrated on the fiftieth day of the Omer, because at that time, the Torah could also have been given on the fiftieth day, and its giving was postponed because of certain factors.

    This is difficult to understand, because every year on a holiday, the same spiritual influences revealed at the time of the original event are expressed once more. Thus according to this explanation, two spiritual influences should be expressed each year: the fact that everything was prepared for the Torah to have been given, and the fact that the Torah was actually given, each one on the day originally associated with it.

  17. (Back to text) Note our Sages' comments (Avodah Zarah 3a) with regard to the phrase (Bereishis 1:31): "The sixth day," that until the sixth of Sivan, the creation was incomplete.

  18. (Back to text) See note 11.

  19. (Back to text) Therefore, the expression "the season of the giving of our Torah" is associated with the sixth of Sivan. The fiftieth day of the Counting of the Omer, does not bring about "the season of the giving of our Torah" as the Torah exists in its own context. Instead, it reflects the connection between the Torah and man's Divine service.

  20. (Back to text) The Halachic texts explain that this phenomenon is limited to the time when the calendar was established according to the testimony of witnesses, because they are referring to the celebration of the holiday by the Jewish people is a whole. The discussion to follow refers to the celebration of the holiday by a single (or group of) individual(s).

  21. (Back to text) The Jerusalem Talmud (Avodah Zarah 3:1, cited by Tosafos, Avodah Zarah 41a); Bamidbar Rabbah 13:14, Zohar, Vol. III, p. 10a.

  22. (Back to text) This explains the parallel drawn by the Zohar (Vol. III, p. 97b) between the Counting of the Omer and the days counted by a woman in her personal process of purification.

  23. (Back to text) An exception to this is made with regard to a person who is lost in the desert, and has forgotten which day of the week it is (Shabbos 69b). Since he does not know when Shabbos is to be observed by the world at large, he relies on his individual reckoning.

  24. (Back to text) It is not logical to say that although there is an individual obligation on each person to count the days of the Omer, that obligation involves counting the days as they are counted in the locale in which a person is located. For the entire significance of the Counting of the Omer is dependent on the fact that it is a mitzvah, and the mitzvah is that every individual should count as an individual.

    Moreover, we are commanded to count "seven perfect weeks." How is it possible to say that a person's counting of the Omer will be "perfect" if, when crossing the dateline from east to west, he will skip a day, or if, when crossing the dateline from west to east, he will have counted one day twice.

  25. (Back to text) Vayikra 23:16.

  26. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch HaRav 489:2.

  27. (Back to text) It is improper to say that, although he counted the 49 days of the Omer, since the total of these 49 days did not include (or included more than) 49 time 24 hours, the weeks of the Omer are not considered "perfect weeks," and therefore, he should not observe Shavuos at this time.

    This is evidenced by the fact that all agree that when a person travels from west to east without crossing the dateline, he must begin observing Shavuos as soon as the sun sets after the fifth of Sivan despite the fact that his 49 days of counting of the Omer did not include 49 time 24 hours.

  28. (Back to text) Nevertheless, from the counting of the Omer of the Jews as individuals result certain obligations, e.g., the additional offerings sacrificed on Shavuos, which are incumbent on our people as a collective.

    To cite a parallel:

    Although there are different principles regarding monetary law (dinei mamanos) and laws regarding capital punishment (dinei nefashos), at times a decision regarding monetary law will have repercussions with regard to the laws regarding capital punishment, and vice versa.

  29. (Back to text) The new dimension brought about by the giving of the Torah is the connection between the upper realms and the lower realms. (See Shmos Rabbah 12:3 and the sichos to Parshas Yisro and Parshas Mishpatim in this series where this concept is explained.)

    With regard to our Divine service, this implies that the kabbalas ol, the acceptance of G-d's yoke, which stems from the essence of the soul (the higher realms), must be extended to the extent that it is felt within man's conscious powers (the lower realms). This implies that there are two dimensions to the giving of the Torah:

    1. The effect on the essence of the soul; the revelation of the essence of every individual's soul being reflected in his joining together with others and thus rising above his individual self See Tanya, ch. 32.

      This dimension of the giving of the Torah applies to the Jewish people as a collective Therefore, at the giving of the Torah on the sixth of Sivan, two factors were necessary:

      1. that the entire Jewish people, all 600,000, be present (Mechilta, Shmos 19:1; Yalkut Shimoni, sec 280);

      2. that the Jewish people camped before Mount Sinai "as one man, with a single heart," (Mechilta, Rashi, Shmos 19:1).

    2. The effect on our conscious powers. This effects each person as an individual, and is relevant to every person according to his own rung of Divine service.

    See also the sichah to Parshas Bamidbar in this series where these concepts are also discussed.

 The Present And Past The Secret Of The Festivals



Current
  • Daily Lessons
  • Weekly Texts & Audio
  • Candle-Lighting times

    613 Commandments
  • 248 Positive
  • 365 Negative

    PDA
  • BlackBerry
  • iPhone / iPod Touch
  • Java Phones
  • Palm Pilot
  • Palm Pre
  • Pocket PC
  • P800/P900
  • Moshiach
  • Resurrection
  • For children - part 1
  • For children - part 2

    General
  • Jewish Women
  • Holiday guides
  • About Holidays
  • The Hebrew Alphabet
  • Hebrew/English Calendar
  • Glossary

    Books
  • by SIE
  • About
  • Chabad
  • The Baal Shem Tov
  • The Alter Rebbe
  • The Rebbe Maharash
  • The Previous Rebbe
  • The Rebbe
  • Mitzvah Campaign

    Children's Corner
  • Rabbi Riddle
  • Rebbetzin Riddle
  • Tzivos Hashem

  • © Copyright 1988-2009
    All Rights Reserved
    Jewish Content