[Avodah] What date was the Torah given?

Akiva Miller kennethgmiller at juno.com
Wed Jan 2 08:30:46 PST 2013

R' Marty Bluke asked:

> ... is how can there be a dispute about the date of Matan Torah?
> Matan Torah was/is THE most important event by far in Jewish
> history, how can we not know what date it took place?
> The fact is that each one tries to prove his position by
> darshening the pesukim their way but no one brings a mesora and
> says I have a kabbala that matan torah was on this date. Why not?

This is an important question, but not a unique one, and could be asked about many other things as well. The answer is so complicated that one could write a book about it. In fact, listmember Rabbi Zvi Lampel DID write a book about it, which I recommend to anyone interested: "The Dynamics of Dispute: The Makings of Machlokess in Talmudic Times"

R' Micha Berger suggested:

> ... perhaps the majority of Jews never knew the date. Rosh
> Chodesh had no halakhos lemaaseh yet, did it? Yes we were
> already given the mitzvah of "ke-'zeh' re'eih veqadeish". But
> did the 70 zeqeinim have any motive for sharing the dates of
> RC Iyyar or Sivan with the masses, or the masses for paying
> much attention if they did?

Shtaros? The practice of dating all legal documents seems quite ancient.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's "The Torah Anthology" gives exact dates for many events. For example, the birthdates of Gad and Asher appear in Vol 3 on page 71. (See his notes for his sources.) It seems clear to me that some sort of lunar calendar was in use -- even if there was no halachic significance to it -- and that these dates were known and passed down to later generations.

So if they knew Asher's birthday, the date of Matan Torah would presumably be even more memorable, as R' Marty Bluke asked.

Akiva Miller
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