[Avodah] The Disconnect of Mattan torah from Shavuous
Professor L. Levine
llevine at stevens.edu
Thu Aug 9 05:37:04 PDT 2018
The following is from pages Rav Schwab on Chumash 538 - 539:
You are to celebrate the festival of Shavuos for Hashem, your G-d. (Devarim 16:10)
It is highly noteworthy that nowhere in the Written Torah is it mentioned that
Chag Shavuos is also Zman Mattan Toraseinu. The Torah tells us that Pesach is
Zman Cheiruseinu, the season of our freedom, and that Sukkos commemorates
the forty years of wandering in the desert. Why doesn't the Torah state that Shavuos
is the day of the Giving of the Torah?
Let us consider: What did we actually receive on Har Sinai on the sixth of Sivan,
the day of Mattan Torah? We did not receive the five sections of Torah shebichsav.
the Written Torah. These were written out by Moshe Rabbeinu at the end of (or
according to some opinions, during) the forty years in the desert. Nor did we receive
on that day the Luchos engraved with the Ten Commandments. Those were given to
us on the following Yom Kippur. What happened on that day was that we heard the
Aseres Hadibros. In other words, we received Torah sheb'al peh, the Oral Law, which
Hashem taught us when He communicated the Ten Commandments.
Therefore, the Torah shebichsav, Written Torah, omits the connection between
Mattan Torah and Shavuos in order to emphasize that Shavuos is a celebration
of the day that we received the full and complete body of G-d's communicated
will ba'al peh, orally. The Torah shebichsav is merely an outline of those teachings.
Therefore, it was left to Chazal (i.e., Torah sheb'al peh) to inform us that Shavuos is
the day of the Giving of the Torah.
Similarly, in the Written Torah Rosh Hashanah is referred to as Yom Terua, the Day
of the Blowing of the Shofar. Nowhere in the Torah does it state that Rosh Hashanah
is also the Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment. This information is revealed to us by
This may be understood in the same vein. But first we must understand an
essential aspect of the difference between Torah shebichsav, the Written Law, and
Torah sheb'al peh, the Oral Law.
Torah shebichsav is a heightened example of middas hadin, justice and exactitude.
For example, if even one corner of a yud from a sefer Torah is erased, the entire sefer
Torah is pasul - rendered unusable.
Furthermore, the Written Torah dictates that a sinner is to be given a full forty
lashes for his violation. The Torah sheb'al peh, however, represents rachamim, mercy.
The Torah sheb'al peh comes to lessen the severe middas hadin requirement of forty
lashes. It teaches that actually up to forty lashes (i.e., a maximum of thirty-nine)
may be administered.
Another example of rachamim and din, as represented by the two Torahs: The
Oral Law explains that the law of aiyin tachas aiyin - an eye for an eye, is not to be taken
literally, but means only that one is required to pay the monetary value of an eye.
The Oral Torah, whose essence is rachamim, mitigates the stringency of the Written
Torah. Consistent with this idea, Torah sheb'al peh always refers to Hashem as
Rachmanah -the Merciful One.
Therefore, we can understand that the Oral Law, which represents Hashem's
leniency in judgment, is the vehicle through which Rosh Hashanah is presented
to us as the Yom Hadin. For it is on Rosh Hashanah that we beseech Hashem's
mercy, we return to Hashem in repentance, seeking to be judged with mercy and
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