Shavuot and Matan Torah - Questions for Self Study
Even though we all know that the holiday of Shavuot
commemorates the events of Matan Torah, for some reason, in the
Torah's presentation of Shavuot we find no mention of that event!
The following questions deal with this topic and will help you
prepare for this week's shiur. You can also use them for self-study on Shavuot.
The Biblical Sources
Read carefully the following sources, which includes every
instance when Shavuot is mentioned in the Torah:
Shmot 23:14-17; 34:22-24;
In each of the above sources, what is the:
Name for this holiday?
[On an 'agricultural note': in the land of Israel, the
wheat usually becomes ripe around the month of May and its
harvest usually lasts about 5 weeks.]
Date (or time of year) of Shavuot?
[Can you explain why the Torah never specifies the
exact (lunar) date on which we must celebrate
Reason for celebrating Shavuot?
Mitzvah that we are commanded to observe?
[Is this mitzvah unique to Shavuot? If so, explain why.]
In any of these above sources, does the Torah mention any
connection between Shavuot and Matan Torah?
If not, can you explain why?
Does the agricultural reason for celebrating Shavuot provide
sufficient reason for celebrating this holiday fifty days after
What is the agricultural reason for celebrating Shavuot?
Can your explain why this requires a holiday of thanksgiving?
When Did Matan Torah Take Place?
Does Chumash ever mention the precise day on which Matan Torah
[Review Shmot chapter 19 as you answer this
If not, is there enough information provided to make
a rough estimate?
[Be sure to relate to Shmot 19:1-2, see Rashi.]
What can be inferred from Shmot 24:15-16 in regard to the
time that elapses at Ma'amad Har Sinai?
[See the various commentaries concerning when in Sivan
those 'seven' days transpired.]
Given that Yom Kippur [= 10 Tishrei] marks the date on which
Moshe came down from Har Sinai with the second Luchot, and based
on the description of the events of Chet Ha'Egel in Sefer Devarim
9:9-10:11 (note the mention of forty days in 9:9,18,25 and 10:10),
work 'backwards' in order to determine a more precise date for
when Matan Torah took place!
Biblical Dating and Commemoration
Does the Torah tell us the precise date of when Bnei Yisrael
Is that date commemorated?
How many specific mitzvot are there in the Torah that
commemorate Yetziat Mitzrayim?
In contrast, how many specific mitzvot commemorate Matan
In this regard, is the Torah's relationship to the event of
Matan Torah different that Yetziat Mitzrayim?
If so, how?
Can you suggest a reason why it may be different?
[See Rashi Shmot 19:1! Relate this to the Midrash of ben
Zomah in the Haggadah of Pesach concerning our daily
obligation to 'remember' the events of Yetziat Mitzraim.]
In the Torah's presentation of the other two of the "shalosh r'galim"
(i.e. Chag HaMatzot and Chag HaSuccot), we do find mention of
a certain historical aspect (see Shmot 13:3-7, Vayikra 23:43) in
addition to their agricultural perspective.
In what manner is
[Is its historical aspect ever mentioned?]
Can you suggest a reason why?
Carefully review Vayikra 23:10-19.
Note the connection between
the korban haomer and the korban Shtei HaLechem.
Note the special korban that comes with the Shtei HaLechem
(see 23:17-19), especially the centrality of the
korban shlamim which is 'waved' ["tenufah"] with the Shtei HaLechem.
Is there any other holiday (or any other time during
the year) when the 'tzibur' offers a korban shlamim?
[Don't spend too much time looking, the answer is no!]
Do you think that this point should be significant?!
Note as well in those psukim (see 23:17) that the Shtei HaLechem
are to be baked 'chametz,' as opposed to every other
type of flour offering in the Mikdash which must be 'matzah.'
[See Vayikra 1:11!]
Would you say that this is significant? How?
Does this suggest a thematic connection to Chag HaMatzot?
In general, how do the special agricultural mitzvot of
the "shalosh regalim" relate to the nature of the
historical events that they commemorate?
The first time in Chumash where we find that Bnei Yisrael
collectively offer a korban shlamim is at Har Sinai, at the very
same ceremony where they enter a covenant and declare "Na'aseh
V'nishma" (see Shmot 24:4-8)!
Can you relate this event to the special korban shlamim
that is offered on Shavuot with the Shtei HaLechem?
Note that there is another instance when Bnei Yisrael
offered a shlamim - at the dedication ceremony of the Mishkan
[B'Yom HaShmini - see Vayikra 9:1-5).
Read those psukim, and
note how these korbanot mark the return of the Sh'china to the
camp of Bnei Yisrael, and thus serve as a "tikun" for Chet
Can you relate this special korban to the korbanot described
in Shmot 24:4-6 at "brit na'asseh v'nishma?"
How does the dedication of the Mishkan relate to Matan
Torah? (See previous shiurim on Parshiot Terumah and
Note as well that the other special korbanot brought on Yom
HaShmini; (the seir l'chatat of the Am and par chatat of
Find a parallel in the korban tzibur offered on Yom
Kippur (see Vayikra 16:1-5, compare with 9:1-5).
Relate this to
the connection between Matan Torah and Yom Kippur (the day Moshe
descended Har Sinai with the second luchot!).
Use this parallel to explain how the two aspects of the Yom HaShmini
(korban chatat - as atonement for Chet Ha'Egel, and
korban shlamim for re-creating Ma'amad Har Sinai), relate to
our annual celebration of both Yom Kippur and Shavuot!
Read Devarim 4:9-15, and its context with 4:5-8.
on 4:9 and his opinion that this pasuk should be considered a
See also Ramban in his hasagot to the sefer ha'mitzvot
of the Rambam - Lo'Taaseh - hasaga #2!.
Relate the primary points raised by this Ramban to the above
questions on how Bnei Yisrael are to commemorate Matan Torah.
Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.
Recall from our shiurim on Sefer Shmot that had Bnei Yisrael
been worthy for their redemption, the process of Yetziat Mitzraim
theoretically could have been much quicker, and Bnei Yisrael
could have gone directly from Mitzraim to Har Sinai [i.e. the
'three day journey to worship God in the desert'].
Had this been the case, approximately on what date would
have Matan Torah taken place?
[Remember that Matan Torah also
required three days of 'preparation' - see Shmot 19:9-11.]
Had that been the case, would Shavuot still have been
celebrated in the land of Israel?
If so, on what day?
Recall how Parshat Emor (Vayikra perek 23) included the most
detail concerning the special mitzvot of each chag.
this parsha did include the historical aspect of Shavuot (i.e.
to remember Matan Torah).
Where in this 'parshia' would you have
expected this historical aspect to be mentioned?
23:15-22, especially pasuk 22!]
Does pasuk 22 belong where it is?
Is there any similar
pasuk anywhere else in Vayikra perek 23?
Where does pasuk 22 belong (see Vayikra 19:9)?
Now, read Vayikra 19:1-18, noting the use of the phrase
"Ani Hashem," and the parallel between these mitzvot and
Where is this 'shared pasuk' with Parshat Emor
Could there be a hidden connection here to Matan
Torah, and its relation to keeping the mitzvot in the Land?