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Friday, May 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Shavuos

Although I am only covering Shavous in the shtikle, please explore the many intriguing blog posts on Bemidbar below:

On Shavuos, we celebrate the giving of the Torah to B'nei Yisrael after they came out of Mitzrayim. On this day we experienced a level of spirituality higher than ever before. Just as it is with other significant days in the calendar when we attempt to relive and re-experience the historical events of the day, we are meant to try reach this spiritual pinnacle, to a certain degree, every year when Shavuos comes around. In the Torah, there are (at least) two instances where we find Shavuos standing out as an exception, perhaps to convey this very idea.

The first is in parshas Vayikra. We are told (Vayikra 2:11) that leaven and honey may not be brought with any (communal) korban. The very next pasuk, as Rashi there explains, comes to tell us that there is one exception to this rule. The avodah of Shavuos involves the bringing of the shtei halechem, the two loaves which did consist of chameitz, and the bikurim, which contained the honey of dates. Why is Shavuos different? Klei Yakar explains that honey represents the desires that every human has in this world. Just as honey is very sweet but an overdose of it can be harmful, so too there are desires in this world that are very necessary, but an overdose of them is harmful as well. One must be careful to indulge in only those that are necessary, and make do without the rest. Se'or, leaven, represents the yeitzer hara, as demonstrated in Berachos 17a "Our desire is to fulfill Your desire, but the se'or sheba'isa is interfering." Both desire and the yeitzer hara are necessary components of our being. One must eat and drink to stay healthy. One must want to marry in order to start a family, or the world would not last. Being that these aspects of our being are not necessary within themselves, but only to reach an ultimate goal, it is not fitting that they be brought for any korban during the duration of the year. However, on Shavuos, we are celebrating the giving of the Torah, the only antidote to keep the yeitzer hara and this-worldly desires at bay. With this in mind, we may bring leaven and honey for on this day, Torah is the principal focus. On all other days, it is forbidden.

The second example is in parshas Pinechas, where the korbanos for all the holidays are discussed. On every Yom Tov, a se'ir izim, a kid goat is brought as a korban. On all days it is referred to as a se'ir... chatas, a goat for a sin offering. However, when the Torah discusses Shavuos, we find a different wording, (Bemidbar 28:30) "se'ir izim echad," with no mention of the word chatas. The Yerushalmi (Rosh HaShanah 4:5) teaches us why the word chatas was left out here. R' Mesharshia said in the name of R' Ida, HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to Yisrael, "since you accepted upon yourself the yoke of My Torah, I consider it as if you have never sinned in your days." R' Chaim Paltiel points out that in Emor (Vayikra 23:19) the korban is indeed referred to as se'ir izim echad l'chatas. However, there too there is a missing phrase. The words lechapeir aleichem, to atone for you, are left out, as if we do not require atonement. We see clearly from examples in the Torah that the spiritual high of Matan Toraseinu is meant to be experienced every year. May we all experience it at the greatest possible level.

Have a good Shabbos and good Yom Tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: No Population Increase
Al Pi Cheshbon: Tens and Ones by Ari Brodsky
Al Pi Cheshbon: Rounded Numbers
Al Pi Cheshbon: Pidyon HaBen Probability
Dikdukian: Be or Ba?
Dikdukian: Discussions on Bemidbar by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Letzeis and On top of Old Smokey

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