The Omer and Eretz Yisrael

This week we began counting the days of the omer. The days of the omer are generally understood as a time of preparation for the reception of the Torah, which we celebrate on Shavuot. However, we know well that this is not what the Torah tells us about the omer or about Shavuot.

Aloh Naaleh,

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Arutz 7
This week we began counting the days of the omer. The days of the omer are generally understood as a time of preparation for the reception of the Torah, which we celebrate on Shavuot. However, we know well that this is not what the Torah tells us about the omer or about Shavuot.

According to the calculation accepted by Jewish law, the Torah was given on the seventh of Sivan, while Shavuot generally falls on the sixth of Sivan. It is true that when the Jewish calendar was still based on the observation of the new moon, Shavuot could fall on the seventh of Sivan, coinciding with the anniversary of the giving of the Torah; the rabbis considered this coincidence a good sign. According to the Torah, however, Shavuot is not a festival of Torah, but a festival of the Holy Temple and of Eretz Israel.

Shavuot was the day that the first wheat of the year was brought to the Temple, baked into sacrificial loaves. It was the beginning of the season of fruit - grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates - that would ripen during the summer, the first of which would also be brought to the Temple. The Qumran sect celebrated additional first fruit festivals during the summer: the festival of wine forty-nine days after Shavuot and the festival of oil after another forty days.

After the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile, Shavuot lost much of its original significance; to the extent that Rabbi Eliezer ruled that with respect to the laws of mourning, Shavuot was not to be treated like one of the pilgrimage festivals, but like Shabbat. Shavuot was reinterpreted as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, even though the date of the festival did not coincide exactly with that anniversary.

It is interesting to note that according to the Biblical calendar of special days, as understood by the rabbis, the day which expresses connection with Eretz Israel precedes the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. Perhaps, the Torah is teaching us that a true Torah life can be lived only in Eretz Israel.
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Professor Joseph Tabory is the chairman of the Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud at Bar Ilan University.



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