Many people who embark on a path of spiritual growth or a journey to self-fulfillment, find themselves waiting most of the time. They wait for inspiration. They wait for the right timing. Many times they continue to wait. Sometimes they fall into the more dangerous trap of shortcuts. The Torah portion of “Emor” reveals much in this matter.
We are in the midst of the period of time called Sefirat HaOmer- the counting of the Omer which counts up the 49 days between the Exodus from Egypt on Passover until the 50th day .it was on this day that the ten commandments were declared on mount Sinai. In the midst of this period we read in this week’s Torah portion of Emor the following, regarding the biblical feasts (commandments that are repeated in Exodus 23 and in Deuteronomy 16);
“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: The appointed seasons ( Moadei ) of Hashem, which you shall proclaim to be “convocations or callings of holiness (mikraei kodesh), even these are My appointed seasons (moadai).” ( Leviticus 23:2) .
Those two terms are important to understand,”appointed seasons” and ” callings of holiness”.
The term, “appointed seasons” imply that these times and their placement in the calendar are not a function of the events that occurred on those days but rather that those events occurred in the time appointed for them to happen.
The term Mikraei Kodesh is usually translated as “convocations of holiness”. The Ramban and the Sforno see in the term a declaration of a need to call together holy assemblies. The Baal HaTanya understands the term” Mikraei Kodesh to literally, mean a ”Calling of Holiness ”. He understands each festival as a gateway in the passage of time at which we are given the power to “call forth” the specific spark of spirituality and holiness ensconced within this “appointed time”. Times that were already appointed in the heavens. The special mitzvot of each festival are the tools with which we begin to “call forth” that holy spark that is so unique to that moment. The shofar on Rosh Hashana call forth the sparks of Awe and Majesty ensconced within our souls. The sukkah unleashes the spark and empowerment to truly depend on G-d’s protection. The holiday of Passover unearths the spiritual power of redemption from the Egypt in our personal lives. Shavuot calls forth the power to hear G-d and accept His word.
Why then is the date of Shavuot( Pentecost- or Feast of Weeks) not explicitly mentioned in the Torah if in fact it too was an appointed time. Even its name Shavuot- the feast of Weeks does not describe the dramatic even that occurred on that day. Its name and its date is determined by the seven-week Counting of the Omer. This counting beginning on the second day of Passover and culminates on the 50th day, Shavuot.
“And you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day from the day you bring the Omer as a wave offering seven weeks; they shall be complete. You shall count until the day after the seventh week, [namely,] the fiftieth day, [on which] you shall bring a new meal offering to Hashem.( Leviticus 23 15-16)
Unlike the other feast days which are defined by the manner in which they are celebrated and referring to great events that happened on those days, the festival of Shavuot is named relating to the anticipation of and preparation for the giving of the Torah on the 50th day.
Yet though not clearly described in the Torah as the day of the receiving of the Torah, it is clearly that. We read the following in the book of Sh’motExodus: “In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, that same day (bayom hazeh) came they into the wilderness of Sinai.”(Exodus 19:1)
They arrive on “that same day,” the first day of the month of Sivan, the third month. Moshe’s ascent of the mountain followed by the period of preparation amounted to five days, and the revelation, as a result, occurred on the sixth day. This day corresponds exactly to the fiftieth day after Passover, physical liberation followed by spiritual liberation.
There are three important lessons to be gleaned from the text. The first is that the importance of the revelation at Mount Sinai is defined by its preparations. The period of Sefirat HaOmer is described as a period of spiritual rectification and ascent. The ability to receive Divine understanding is a function of what type of vessel one becomes. A hard rain landing on dry parched earth cannot be absorbed like a rain landing on tilled and ground that has been prepared.
Secondly we note in the verse the following statement” that same day (bayom hazeh) came they into the wilderness of Sinai.”(Exodus 19:1).The Midrash (Numbers Rabbah 1:7) teaches that we need to be reminded that the choice of the wilderness as the place of G-d’s revelation was critical. The wilderness speaks loudly. The Hebrew word for wilderness or desert “Midbar“ is made up of the same letters as Midaber (speaking). From within the stillness and quietude of the wilderness much is heard. In essence we need to quiet our innate pride and arrogance to be able to listen.
Thirdly the text is teaching that when we are dealing with Divine inspiration and understanding, its revelation is not only limited to one specific appointed day or moment. The Torah continues to be “received” every day of our lives and not on any specific date.
The lessons then of “spiritual preparation”, “soulful humility” and “daily expectation and striving” are the keys for spiritual and psychological growth and fulfilment.
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved