Why no date in the Torah for Shavuot?

By Rabbi Howard Wolk
Parashat Emor

The portion of Emor is a major source in the Torah for the holidays of the year. After explaining Shabbat, the Torah proceeds to describe the holidays. Each holiday’s date and basic requirements are outlined.

There is one notable omission: the date of Shavuot. The Torah does not furnish a date for the holiday, neither in Emor nor anywhere else.

Of course, we understand how we get to Shavuot. We begin counting the Omer on the second night of Passover and continue for seven weeks. When we arrive at the 50th day, it is the holiday of Shavuot.

But, still, why no date for the holiday? And why does the Torah not call it the “Holiday of the Giving of the Torah”?

One of the commentators (Ibn Ezra) explains that the Torah had a concern. If a date is given for the holiday, perhaps people would develop the wrong attitude toward its observance.

People might say: The rest of the year the Torah is not relevant. Come that special day — call it Torah Day — then I will observe the Torah.

Obviously, the Torah did not desire that approach. The Torah gives us a way of life for the entire year.

Instead, we have to do a little homework. You have to count the 49 days/seven weeks of the Omer — and then you know when Shavuot is.

In fact, in ancient times, the date of Shavuot fluctuated from year to year. The Torah requires no specific date, only that it be the 50th day after Passover.

Sunday, May 14, is Mother’s Day.

It is very nice and commendable for one to present a card or a gift to one’s mother. It is very nice to make it a special day for one’s mother.

“Honor your father and mother” is one of the Ten Commandments.

But, if Mother’s Day is the only day that one does things for one’s mother; if it is the only time that a son or daughter is concerned about his or her mother — then the lesson about the date for Shavuot is not understood.

One’s mother should be afforded respect and concern not only on a certain Sunday in May but year-round.

Likewise, we have been given a precious gift — the Torah. It is to be cherished, studied and used as our guide, every day of the year.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Howard Wolk

Rabbi Howard Wolk is community chaplain with Jewish Family Service. He is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shaare Tefilla and a past president of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas.

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