In this week’s parsha we are given the schedule of Torah-mandated holidays, the month and the day on which each yom tov is celebrated. Chag HaMatzos, a.k.a. Pesach, falls out on the 15th day of the first month (i.e. Nisan). Rosh HaShana is on the first day of the seventh month (i.e. Tishrei). Yom Kippur, ten days after Rosh HaShana, is observed on the 10th of Tishrei. Sukkos also takes place in the seventh month, beginning on the 15th. So many holidays, so many dates, yet the list is incomplete!
Shavuos, the holiday soon upon us, seems to be dateless. The Torah doesn’t reveal in which month, and on what day we are to celebrate it. The only information provided is that after counting seven complete weeks from the second day of Pesach, we have another holiday. Why is it that out of all the yomim tovim, the one that is shrouded in mystery (in respect to its proper time, and other aspects as well) is Shavuos, the day associated with Matan Torah? Another question regarding this central event in our history is why the Torah given to us in a desert, a harsh environment that is inhospitable to human life.
Rav Yisrael Salanter, father of the Mussar movement, felt that these two facts, the location where the Torah was given, and the ambiguity about when it was exactly given and thus commemorated, point to an indispensable lesson about the nature of the Torah, and our relationship to it. The message is that Torah is eternal; it is not bound to any specific place or time. Granted, there are several ‘time-bound’ and ‘place-bound’ commandments that are restricted to specific circumstances and are not always applicable, e.g. those that could only be observed when we had a Beis HaMikdash, but the system of Torah u’Mitzvos as a whole, is certainly meaningful and suitable for all times and all situations, even in the midst of a desert.
Have a great Shabbos.
P.S. We are looking for sponsors for Shavuos night shiurim (in memory of a loved one, for a yahrtzeit, etc.), and volunteers to help with the preparation and serving of refreshments on Shavuos night. If interested and able, please contact me as soon as possible. Thanks so much!