Volume 19, Issue 2
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
Names of the Holiday – Shavuot, Chag HaBikkurim, Zman Matan Torateinu and Atzeret
QUESTION: Why is the festival called “Shavuot”?
ANSWER: 1) “Shavuot” means weeks: From the time the Jews left Egypt they waited seven weeks until they were worthy of receiving the Torah. We, too, count Sefirah for seven weeks starting from the night following the first day of Pesach, and then we celebrate the festival of “Shavuot” – weeks.
2) “Shavuot” means promises: When Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish people, they promised to obey it and remain faithful to Him. In return, Hashem promised that He would cherish the Jews and not exchange them for any other people. (Tur Birkat)
The festival of Shavuot is called “Atzeret” in the Gemara but not in the Chumash because, according to the Torah, the unique aspect of this holiday was the offering of the shetei halechem – two loaves of wheat – which made permissible the use of the new crop for meal-offering in the Beit HaMikdash. However, the Gemara was compiled in Babylon after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. Since that time, the only unique thing about the holiday has been that it is “Atzeret” – a time to refrain from work unconnected to food preparation. (Korban He’Ani)
וכל העם ראים את הקולת
“All of the people could see the sounds…” (20:15)
QUESTION: The verse states, “All of the people could see the sounds.” Rashi explains this to mean that “They were able to see that which is audible, which is impossible to see elsewhere.” What lesson did Hashem want to impart with this seemingly unnecessary miracle?
ANSWER: From the way Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish people, we learn how to conduct ourselves when we teach others (Chagigah 7a).
With this miracle, Hashem was conveying an important message for posterity. For a teacher or Rabbi to be sure their messages are being heard and accepted or for a parent to inspire children, it is imperative that the listeners “see” that the voice they hear from the lecturer is not just verbal exercises, rather it is something that the lecturer himself actually lives and practices. When the listener sees that the lecturer practices what he preaches and provides a living example, it inspires and convinces the listeners to follow suit.
QUESTION: It is customary to read Ruth on Shavuot (O.C. Rama, 490:9). What is the reason for this custom?
ANSWER: On Shavuot, we received the Torah, which contains 613 commandments. The entire world had already been given seven of these commandments to observe, so we actually received 606 additional commandments. When Ruth the Moabite converted to Judaism, she accepted upon herself 606 new commandments as the Jewish people did at Sinai.
To emphasize the fact that we all received 606 new commandments on Shavuot, we read the story of Ruth, whose name – רות – has the numerical value of 606.
ויהי בימי שפוט השופטים
“And it came to pass in the days that the judges were judged…” (1:1)
QUESTION: Why does Megillat Ruth start with a “vav” – “And”? A sefer starts with a “vav” only if it is a continuation of the book before it. To what subject is the Megillah a follow-up?
ANSWER: There are five books of Torah and eight books of Nevi’im – Prophets. The last book of Nevi’im is Trei Asar – the twelve prophets and Megillat Ruth is the first book of Kesuvim – Writings. The last of the twelve prophets is Malachi which concludes with “Behold I send you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem” – the Revelation of Mashiach. In a sense the Megillah is a consolation to Klal Yisrael,that even as they experience the galut – exile, they should not despair, for long before Hashem prepared the means for the emergence of Mashiach.
Since the Book of Ruth relates the episodes that led to the birth of Mashiach, it is a sequel to Malachi which concludes with Eliyahu’s appearances to herald the coming of Mashiach and thus, appropriately starts with a “vav”, – “And it came to pass…”
This issue is dedicated by Steve & Shellie Zuckerman in memory of their parents, Phillip and Evelyn Zuckerman and Aaron Feinerman. For future sponsorship opportunities please call Steve Zuckerman at 516 652 5266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Rabbi Lichter at email@example.com. Sponsorships in memory of or in honor of someone are $50.00 per issue.