Project Genesis

The Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath)


Connection of Shavuot to Mt. Sinai

Question: How did the Rabbis of the Rabbinic period justified making a historical connection between the holiday of Shavu’ot and the giving of the 10 commandments at Mt Sinai/Horeb when ALL references in the Torah to Shavu’ot (Ex. 23:16, 34:22, Lev. 23:15-22, Num. 28:26-31, and Deut. 16:10,16) describe it only as an agricultural harvest festival

Answer:  There is certainly no reason that a festival cannot have multiple functions… stating one by no means precludes others. In any case, the fact that the Torah fails to assign any particular calendar date to Shavuot, but rather requires we observe it seven weeks after Passover, forces us to conclude that Shavuot is primarily a continuation of our recognition of our previously-gained national freedom. The fact that the end of the seventh week must always fall within a day or two of calendar date of the giving of the Torah makes ignoring the connection nearly perverse.

However, it is worth noting that Rabbi S. R. Hirsch (commentary to Lev. 23:20) made a great deal of the fact that the calendar date of Shavuot specifically does NOT correspond directly to the day we received the Torah (which, according to the Talmud, was on the seventh of Sivan), but to the end of seven weekly cycles of spiritual growth evolving from our heightened sense of moral freedom (Passover). It is not some ceremony of commemoration that we celebrate, but an opportunity to grow ever-more deserving of and committed to Torah.

Question: and NONE of the narratives concerning the giving of the 10 commandments at MT Sinai/Horeb (Ex.19-20, 34:1-28, and Deut. 4:10-13, 5:1-19) mention anything about it occurring on Shavu’ot. Actually Exodus 19:1 states that the Israelites entered the Sinai Wilderness on the 3rd new moon after Pesach in Nissan which would make it the month of Tammuz, not Sivan when Shavu’ot is celebrated.

Answer: The text in Exodus 19 doesn’t include the word “after” (as you rendered it) but instead reads “In the third month of the children of Israel’s leaving the land of Egypt…” As in all Torah chronology, such numbering always counts the beginning month as “one”.

Question: BTW, if you say that it’s because the Oral Law says so, then why is there no evidence in the entire Torah and Tanach to back up such a claim?

There is. You might like to read my essay on that subject here

With regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton

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