Table of Contents

Notes on Revelation

Shavuot/Pentecost


And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.--Leviticus 23:15-22


Shavuot is compared to a wedding, for it was on Shavout that the covenant between God and the Jewish people was sealed at Mount Sinai.

Just as the two partners in a marriage give freely to each other that which they most cherish, this exchanging of love is symbolized by the dual nature of the holiday: Shavuot is both agricultural festival, when the first fruits of the people are offered in the Temple, and spiritual climax, when God offers his Holy Torah to the Jewish Nation.

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How did Shavuot get to be the festival of Matan Torah, the Giving of the Torah?

Nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to Shavuot as the commemoration of the Giving of the Torah. The Sages arrive at it purely from counting the chronology given in the Bible: "Seven weeks shall you count . . . and you shall keep the Feast of Weeks. . . ." (Deuteronomy 16:9-10)

Seven weeks after Passover comes Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. Yet in other places, it is clear that the day when Moses offered the tablets with the Ten Commandments on them was the 6th or 7th of Sivan -- that makes it the 50th day after the Exodus, after the counting of the seven weeks.

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As the day when the Jewish people embraced the Torah, Shavuot customs include reading the Ten Commandments and the Book of Ruth in the Synagogue, studying Torah throughout the night, and learning as much Torah as possible.

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When you look forward to something very much, when you fix your gaze on a special moment in the future, you count the days to that event. When the Jewish People left Egypt, even though their new-found freedom was very sweet to them, their gaze was fixed on a moment that Moshe told them would arrive seven weeks later - the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

[When the people left Egypt (world) at Passover, their gaze was fixed on a moment that would arrive seven weeks (years) later. Those left behind will be looking forward to something very much, fixing their gaze on a special moment in the future and counting the days??]

From the second night of Pesach, every night for seven weeks, we count the days that have passed on this spiritual journey from Egypt to Sinai. We call this process 'The counting of the Omer.'

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Ruth and Shavuot
by Shlomo Riskin

Fifty days after the Jews left Egypt, the Torah was given on Mount Sinai. And even if we can't imagine the transcendent majesty of that moment, no one would deny the influence of this document translated into more than a thousand languages, serving as the source of the entire monotheistic tradition. Wherever the consciousness of one Gd exists, the ripples of Sinai are still being felt. Sinai is Torah, Sinai is Shavuot, Sinai is Judaism. A Jewishness without Torah is a conceptual and historical impossibility, a term devoid of content or meaning.

But Shavuot does not only celebrate the giving of the Torah. Indeed, the Torah itself refers to Shavuot, not as the day of the Receiving of the Torah but rather as the Harvest Festival (Hag HaKatzir) (Ex. 23:16) or the 'day of the firstfruits' ('U'vyom HaBikurim') [Num. 28:26],which refer to the agricultural expressions of the celebration.

The choice of reading the Scroll of Ruth on Shavuot is usually understood in terms of its theme -- Ruth's conversion to Judaism. Her acceptance of the Gd of Israel is seen as paralleling the Israelites' acceptance of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.

Elimelekh, a leading Bethelemite, had left the Land of Israel because of a famine. He dreams of acquiring riches -- or at least maintaining his own wealth -- in the foreign land of Moab. The very words of the Bible reflect the ironic failure of the fantasy that a Jew can better himself outside of his national homeland. Elimelekh leaves the "House of (his) bread (Bet-lehem)" for an (empty) field of Moab. His two sons ('banim' -- from the verb form "to build," since one's children enable one to grow into an "eternal building") become children ('yeladim' Ruth 1:1-5) upon their marriages to Moabite women, since they are now unable to provide their father with any real continuity. Indeed, the very names of these 'children' are 'Mahlon' (Disease) and 'Kilion' (Destruction).

Ruth is truly a re-incarnated Abraham, the discoverer of the religion of ethical monotheism. Boaz explains his special consideration for and admiration of Ruth as emanating from the fact that: "...you left your father and your mother, and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before." [Ruth 2:11]

These words resonate Gd's opening words to the man from Ur who also went on a similar odyssey: "Get you out from your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." [Gen. 12:1]

Abraham as well as Ruth can only realize Jewish destiny on the soil of Israel.

Reading the book of Ruth on Shavuot expresses a two-dimensional, religio-nationality Judaism, which is the necessary prerequisite of eventual redemption. And Shavuot serves as the yearly culmination of all of our festivals, linking our celebration of the Torah of Gd with the first fruits of the land. Only when these two merge as one will Abraham, Ruth and David's ultimate destiny be fulfilled in the Messiah, redeemer of Israel and the world.

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(From the Arachim Torah Journal)

"If G-d had brought us to Mount Sinai, but had not given us the Torah, it would have been enough. Dayenu!" (From the Passover Haggadah)

As we get ready to conclude the 50-day countdown from Passover to Shavu'os, let us reconsider this rather curious statement that we ourselves made at the Seder (at Passover).

We told our children: It would have been enough even if we had not received the gift of Torah from the Almighty. We would have settled for the massive national assembly at the foot of Mount Sinai, even without the crowning Revelation.

...[the] Festival of Shavu'os, the anniversary of the Revelation at Sinai.

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Countdown to Shavuot
by Yerachmiel Tilles of Ascent Seminars

THE FIRST SHAVUOT took place on Shabbat, fifty days after the Exodus from Egypt, on the sixth day of the month of Sivan, 2448 years after the creation of the world (May 9, 1313 BCE), 3308 years ago.

That day, at the break of dawn, G-d spoke the Ten Declarations. 1. Although the entire fifty-day period was a time of purification, 2. the most intensive preparations were started on the first day of Sivan, when the entire Jewish nation arrived at Mt Sinai.

[Sivan 1-5 Events omitted]

SIVAN 6 EVENTS

1.Evening: We all go to sleep, mistakenly assuming that the best preparation is to be fresh for the big event, instead of staying up late and readying ourselves.

2.Dawn: Thunder, lightning, thick clouds, rain, and unceasing shofar blasts increasing in volume.

We tremble, the mountain smokes, G-d bends the heavens down to the mountain top; His presence accompanied by 22,000 angels descends on fire. Birds stop flying and chirping, all animals are silent, the seas are still. The world holds its breath.

Moshe ascends and descends at G-d's word. G-d begins the Ten Declarations, first saying all of them simultaneously, then repeating them one at a time. Our souls depart from bodies as we hear the first two; G-d revives us but we retreat in fear, requesting Moshe to listen for us. G-d calls Moshe back to the top of the mountain and tells him the last eight, and Moshe repeats them to us.

The holiday begins.
Effects accumulate.
The shofar is blowing!
The mountain is smoking!
Revelation is imminent!
BE READY!

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Shavuot
by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

When the Torah was given 3300 years ago from Mt. Sinai, the entire nation was gathered around the mountain. A tiny glimpse of what that experience may have been like can be gotten on the night of Shavuot in Jerusalem, when tens of thousands of people who have been up all night studying Torah begin to stream toward the Western Wall from all directions, shortly before dawn. The crowds, the steady movement of Jews, the anticipation of reaching the Wall for the festive prayers, is one of the most inspiring sights of the entire year.

But does this night of Torah really have anything to do with Sinai? The very fact that we ask the question only means that in our own minds the Festival of Shavuot and the giving of the Torah are synonymous. Shavuot IS Torah, Shavuot IS Sinai.

But if that's true, doesn't it seem odd that the name of Shavuot (literally 'weeks') hardly does justice to the central motif of the festival, emphasizing instead the period of time which we are enjoined to count between Passover and Shavuot? Of course, this passage of time leads up to Shavuot, but it hardly seems to be the essential part of our experience. And if indeed it is not, why call the festival Shavuot?

After all, the Biblical names of the other Festivals certainly reflect their essence: the name 'Pesach' tells us to think of the paschal lamb, (korban pesach), sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan, as the central motif of Passover, just as the name Sukkot focuses our attention on the commandment to leave our permanent homes and to live in a temporary sukkah for seven days. Each of these holidays contain other prohibitive and ritual features, but their names express their essence. Moreover, the Bible never identifies 'Shavuot' as the day of the Sinai revelation!

And indeed, if counting is a significant aspect of Shavuot, notes the illustrious Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, there is something about the numbers which just doesn't add up.

"And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that you brought the omer of the wave offering; seven complete sabbaths shall there be: to the morrow after the seventh complete sabbath shall you number fifty days and you shall offer a new meal offering to G-d." [22 Lev. 23:15-16]

These verses refer to the festival of Shavuot. After completing a seven week count, forty-nine days, we bring the meal offering to G-d on the fiftieth day, which is the festival of Shavuot.

This is simple enough until we compare actual dates, and a discrepancy seems to emerge regarding the giving of the Torah on Sinai and the count of the fiftieth day.

The Bible tells us that the Jews took the Paschal lamb on the 10th day of Nisan, and the Midrash records that it fell on the Sabbath, which is why we call the Sabbath before the festival of Pesach the Great Sabbath (Shabbat Hagadol). Since the Israelites left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan (the Biblical date of the festival itself), they had to have left that first year on a Thursday, the fifth day after the Shabbat.

Since the fifty-day count begins the day after the first day of the festival ("..count for yourselves from the morrow after the day of rest.."), it turns out that the first day of the count that first year was on a Friday, and upon counting seven complete weeks, the fiftieth day must likewise fall out on a Friday, seemingly the day of the festival that the verse in Leviticus refers to as Shavuot. But the Midrash insists that the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai took place on the Sabbath! Well, the Sabbath that year was obviously the fifty-first day after the start of the count. Then according to the actual chronology, the fiftieth day was the day before the Israelites received the Torah from G-d?!

One of the ironic inconsistencies of life is that the excitement of anticipation generally exceeds the ongoing joy of achievement; we anxiously await the acquisition of a material object, a degree or promotion, even a spouse -- but then when we have attained the longed- for prize, it often loses its allure.

And as it is with so many aspects of life, so it was with Torah. Once the Israelites received the Torah, they often lost sight of its significance, remaining apathetic to its content and disregarding its laws. Indeed, only forty days after the Revelation itself, the Israelites are found worshipping a golden calf!

Hence, the historical aspect of our Shavuot celebration is not the day we received the Torah, but is rather the climax of our anticipation, the moment of the dream and the longing. How often do jaded married couples look back with nostalgic yearning to the period of their courtship, when their hearts were filled with love and their only thought was how best to fulfill the needs of the other. Yes, the Torah may have been given on Shabbat, the fifty-first day, but in celebrating Shavuot on the fiftieth day we seek to recapture our initial desire for Torah with the very fiber of our entire being, the breathless anticipation for G-d's word which made us initially worthy to receive His message/gift.

Now it makes sense why we call this festival Shavuot. Our festival celebrates the counting, waiting, wanting of a people dedicated to hearing the eternal word of the Divine. G-d's bestowal of His gift is less significant, because a gift can be rejected or spurned in the final analysis; our desire to receive the Torah, our preparations to make ourselves worthy of Torah is of far greater significance - and is the emotion we must endeavor to retain if we are truly to remain a "Kingdom of priest-teachers and a holy nation". Shavuot is a celebration of our sacred preparation and anticipation rather than of the often disappointing and anti-climactic realization and achievement.

In sum, Shavuot celebrates the Israelites desire and choice to embrace Torah; therefore it is so fitting to read the story of Ruth on that Festival, the odyssey of a Moabite daughter-in-law who, as a Jew-by- choice rather than a Jew-by-birth, merited to become the mother of the Messiah. Ruth's overwhelming desire for and commitment to the faith and land of Naomi makes her one of the great heroines of our history. Only when every Jew-by-birth recaptures the excitement, anticipation and preparation of a Jew-by-choice, will the true Messiah bring redemption to Israel and the world.

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Master and Beloved
by HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein SHLIT"A

"'And Moshe led the people out' (Shemot 19:17)- R. Yose said R. Yehuda would teach as follows: "'Hashem mi-sinai ba' (Devarim 33:2) - God came from Sinai. Do not read it so but rather 'Hashem le-sinai ba' - God came TO Sinai to give the Torah to Israel." However, I disagree, and rather teach - 'God came from Sinai' to greet Israel, like a groom who goes out to greet his bride." (Mekhilta Yitro, 3)

R. Yose, however, disagrees - he reads the verse literally: 'God came FROM Sinai.' There is a dimension in which God comes from Sinai, as an equal, as it were, of Israel: 'like a groom who goes out to meet his bride.' In Shir Hashirim, when Israel is called by God "My dove, My pure one (tamati)," the midrash expounds, "Do not read 'tamati' but rather 'te'omati' - my perfect match." Here we have a relationship between a lover and a beloved, a bride and groom, nothing remotely resembling the master-slave relationship described above by R. Yehuda. The revelation at Sinai is described here as the climax of the period of engagement, 'your love as a bride' (Yirmiyahu 2:2). God set up a rendezvous with his beloved, the Nation of Israel, in the desert at the foot of Mt. Sinai. He said, as it were, "You agreed - you did not say 'Let us meet somewhere more convenient;' you agreed to go out to the desert!" In R. Yose's scenario, God is seen as immanent; He comes from Sinai into the desert to meet His bride Israel.

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The Medium and The Message
by Asher Meir

When we study Torah, we relive the revelation on Mount Sinai. By learning Torah, we do not merely inform ourselves of the content of the commandments: we experience their transmission by the Holy One blessed be He. Rav David Rosen, the Rugochover, is reported to have said:

"When I pray, I talk to God; when I study Torah, God talks to me.

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On Shavuot, we read the Ten Commandments in synagogue because it is their presentation to the Jewish people that inaugurates the Matan Torah [Giving of the Torah] process. "

The first two of the Ten Commandments were heard directly from God speaking to the Jewish people, and not through Moses as an intermediary. Jewish tradition explains that the experience was so powerful, that the Jews "died" from the impact -- their souls left their bodies from the force of the interaction, and God had to "revive" them. After this happened twice, the Jewish people said, "Enough! We're convinced - Moses can tell us the rest of them!"

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The Book of Ruth

The Book of Ruth is found in third main division of the Bible, Ketuvim (Writings). The book was once preserved on parchment and thus came to be known by its Hebrew name of Megillat Ruth, the Scroll of Ruth. Set in the period of the Judges, it tells the story of a Moabite girl who adopts the faith and land of the Jews during the harvest season in Bethlehem. Ruth's gentle and considerate behavior towards her widowed mother-in-law Naomi attracts the attention of Boaz, the leader of the generation, who eventually marries her. The child born of their union is Oved, the grandfather of David.

Traditionally, Shavuot is the day that King David was born, and died. The Book of Ruth concludes and establishes the pedigree of David, who was the eventual product of the union between Ruth and Boaz. David is the beginning of the line of kings in Israel leading to the Messiah. The outcome of Boaz and Ruth's union attests to their personal greatness as well as the magnitude of the reward for deeds of kindness and the degree of recognition owed to a righteous convert.

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Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is also referred to in the Bible as Hag HaBikkurim, Festival of the First Fruits.

One of the most spiritual experiences connected to farming was the offering of produce in the Holy Temple. In Temple times, Shavuot was an agricultural festival when Jews from all over the land of Israel trekked to Jerusalem to offer their first fruits of the seven species, giving rise to the name Chag Habikkurim, Festival of the First Fruits. This pilgrimage was one of three that were required of all Jews who were able, the other two being Pesach and Sukkot.

Shavuot also marked the end of a harvest cycle, which began when the barley crop was offered on Pesach. Wheat was then offered on Shavuot.

Barley was used as animal feed, whereas wheat was generally saved for human consumption. Thus the two offerings represented the movement from the animalistic, slave existence of Egypt (the Pesach offering) to the elevated experience of human beings in the Divine Image in a relationship with God (the revelation on Sinai at Shavuot). Thus the wheat offering of Shavuot was also a culmination of the Omer period in metaphysical as well as agricultural terms.

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Shavuot was distinguished by the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and its accompanying festivities.

After the destruction of the Temple, the pilgrimage aspect disappeared, and the focus of the holiday switched to its other facet, the anniversary of the "Giving of the Torah" - Matan Torah. Shavuot's special customs today combine the dualistic nature of the holiday by celebrating physical and spiritual "harvests" that occurred at this time.

"Tikkun L'eil Shavuot"
Since Shavuot marks the Giving of the Torah, studying Torah has long been a Shavuot tradition. Based on a Midrash, the Jewish people have gone even one step further. The Midrash recounts how on the night before Matan Torah, the Jews encamped beneath Mount Sinai went to bed early. Since prophecy was generally connected to dream states, they thought that sleeping would be an appropriate way to prepare for the Big Day.

But, conclude the Sages. The people were wrong; they should have been up all night quivering in anticipation. To correct this mistake of our forefathers, the custom of the "Tikkun L'eil Shavuot" -- the "Reparation of Shavuot Night" arose. Every Shavuot, study halls across the world are full of people engrossed in the study of Torah throughout the night.

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Book of Our Heritage ,
Hebrew original by Rabbi Eliyahu KiTov, English translation by Rabbi Nachmun Bulman

There is a custom of placing tree branches and boughs about the 'bimah' (Synagogue pulpit) in the Synagogue, to recall that Shavuot is the time of judgment for the fruit of the trees, so that prayers might be uttered in their behalf. The Gaon of Vilna however, suspended this custom in many communities since it had become an established practice in gentile religious festival usage.

One (of many) Reason for eating Milk foods on Shavuot
"Shavuot is an extension of Pesach and its conclusion. Just as we eat two cooked dishes on Pesach in memory of the Paschal-Lamb and the Chaggigah offering of Pesach, we likewise eat two cooked foods on Shavuot; one a milk dish, and the other a meat dish. Since one may not eat from the same loaf of bread with both meat and milk dishes, this custom is a memorial of the two breads brought on Shavuot" (Rabbi Moshe Isserles - Rama).

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Shavuot at the Kotel

Together with ten of my friends, I somehow managed to stay awake till 3:30 am learning from various Jewish sources and listening to shiurim, and then mustered up the strength to walk to the Old City to pray shacharit (the morning prayers) at the Kotel (the Western Wall). I was so exhausted I don't really remember the walk, but I know that as we descended the stairs to the Wall, the sight that met me quickly jolted me out of my fatigued state.

Thousands of Jews - men and women, young and old, Israelis and tourists from many countries - thronged around the Kotel and its courtyard, preparing to pray Shacharit at the holiest site for Jews in Jerusalem. There were literally thousands of minyanim (group of 10 men required to pray communally in Jewish tradition) forming and as we joined one, I felt a tremendous sense of belonging and joy at being able to pray with my people, at a holy site and in a Holy City.

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The Omer

An Offering
According to the Bible (Leviticus 23:11), an offering, consisting of an omer (a specific measure) of barley, was brought to the Temple on the second day of Pesach. The omer was, in fact, a measurement of barley. Until that offering was made, the Bible records, "You shall eat no bread or parched grain or fresh ears."

Counting
From that day onwards, it was necessary to count forty nine days until Shavuot - Hag Hakatzir - the Festival of the [Wheat] Harvest. After the destruction of the Temple, the practice of bringing barley was discontinued, but Jews continued to "count the omer period," a custom which has continued throughout the ages.

Weathering it
The Omer period has several interesting angles: In the agricultural world, it represented a period of tremendous tension for the Judean farmer who was exposed to sudden changes of weather that were typical for the season between the two Jewish holidays of Pesach and Shavuot. Indeed, the Hebrew word for a hot dry wind, chamsin, derives its source from the Arabic word for fifty, since this bothersome weather occurred so frequently during this period.The hot dry wind could burn the stalks of the ripening wheat, thus spoiling the produce and threatening the farmer's sustenance.

Reminder of the Source
In Jewish thought and tradition, the optimal proportions of rains (and wind and sun) were to be a reward for keeping God's commandments. So, the counting of the days of the Omer reminded the farmer of the source of his success in producing grain and olives and grapes - the three staple crops recorded in the Bible. The daily omer count consequently offered an emotional and practical spur to the landowner to be more faithful to the ongoing demands of his spiritual duties. This spiritual aliyah -- ascent -- paralleled the process that the Israelites experienced in the 49 days that passed between when they left Egypt to the time they received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Anticipation
The tension increased as the days passed, but so did the anticipation of going up to the Temple on the upcoming festival of Shavuot. Shavuot was the religious climax of the counting period. Since Shavuot also commemorated the Giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, observance of the holiday continued even in the post-Temple period when the offerings were discontinued. The period of the Omer thus became the natural bridge between Pesach and Shavuot. For what reason did the Children of Israel leave Egypt if not to receive the Torah? Thus the Jew counted the Omer as a bride and groom would count the days to their marriage: as each day passes, the anticipation grows.

A Mourning Period
Through the years, the Omer period has become identified with sad memories for Jewry. Massacres occurred during the period of the Romans and later still during the Crusades. In the days of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the Jews - led by Bar Kokhba - attemped to drive out the foreign oppressors from Judea. The revolt was unsuccessful and during the fighting thousands of Jews lost their lives.

According to tradition, numerous students of Rabbi Akiva died as a result of a plague that raged during the days of the Omer counting. For that reason, it is customary to observe a a period of semi-mourning during this period, most prominently during the whole Hebrew month of Iyar, when weddings are not held, hair is not cut, and music is not heard. On one day only, the 18th Iyar and the thirty-third day of the Omer - in Hebrew: Lag B'Omer, after the acronym for the number 33 - this ban is lifted, since the plague is said to have ceased on that day.

(All of the above from: Virtual Jerusalem Holidays page)


Chapter 2, verse 1: And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

[And when the day of Pentecost was fully come.] I. This word Pentecost seems to be taken into use by the Hellenist Jews to signify this feast; which also almost all the versions retain, the Western especially, and, amongst the Eastern, the Syriac and Ethiopic.

II. It is well enough known that a solemn day in the holy Scriptures, was a holiday, Leviticus 23:36; Deuteronomy 16:8; 2 Kings 10:20: and the reason why the Jews so peculiarly appropriate it to the feast of Pentecost seems to be this; because this feast consisted in one solemn day, whereas the feast of Passover and of Tabernacles had more days. "As the days of the feast are seven. R. Chaija saith, 'Because the Pentecost is but for one day, is the morning so too?' They say unto him, 'Thou arguest from a far-fetched tradition.'" Where the Gloss hath it, "That this fast is but for one day, we learn from the very word a solemn day." "The men of the town Mahaesia are strong of heart, for they see the glory of the law twice in the year." The Gloss is, "Thither all Israel is gathered together in the month Adar, that they may hear the traditions concerning that passover in the school of Rabh Asai; and in the month Elul, that they may hear the traditions concerning the feast of Tabernacles. But they were not so gathered together at the feast of Pentecost, because that is not above one day."

Hence that Baithusean may be the better believed in his dispute with Rabban Johanan, "Moses our master (saith he) will love Israel; and he knows that the feast of Pentecost is but for one day."

III. And yet there is mention of a second holiday in Pentecost, Rabh Papa hath shammatized those bearers that bury the dead on the first feast-day of Pentecost, &c.; where the mention of the 'first feast-day' hints to us that there is a second, which we find elsewhere asserted in express terms. "R. Simeon Ben Jozadek saith, 'In eighteen days any single person repeats the Hallel over'; that is to say, in the seven days of the feast of tabernacles, in the eight days of the feast of dedication, the first day of the passover, and the first day of Pentecost. But in the captivity they did it in one-and-twenty days. In the nine days of the feast of tabernacles, in the eight days of the feast of dedication, in the two feast-days of the passover, and the two feast-days of Pentecost."

Whereas it is said in the captivity, the difficulty is answered; for although in the land of Israel there was but one solemn day in the feast of Pentecost, yet amongst the Jews in foreign countries there were two; which also happened in other solemnities. For instance, within Palestine they kept but one day holy in the beginning of the year, viz. the first day of the month Tisri; but in Babylon and other foreign countries they observed both the first and the second day. And the reason was, because at so great a distance from the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, they could not be exactly certain of the precise day, as it had been stated by the Sanhedrim; they observed, therefore, two days, that by the one or the other they might be sure to hit upon the right.

IV. God himself did indeed institute but one holiday in the feast of Pentecost, Leviticus 23: and therefore is it more peculiarly called a solemn day, because it had but one feast-day. And yet that feast hath the same titles that the feast of tabernacles and the passover had, Exodus 23:14, &c.: and all the males appeared in this feast as well as in the others; nor was this feast without its Chagigah any more than the rest. So that however the first day of Pentecost only was the holy and solemn day, yet the feast itself was continued for seven days. So the doctors in Rosh Hashanah; "R. Oshaiah saith, 'Whence comes it that the Pentecost hath compensations for all the seven days?' Because the Scripture saith, In the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles. He compares the feast of weeks (i.e. Pentecost) with the feast of unleavened bread. That hath combinations for all the seven days, so the feast of weeks (i.e. Pentecost) hath compensations for all the seven days." They called that compensations, when any one not having made his just offerings in the beginning of the feast, repaired and compensated this negligence or defect of his by offering in any other of the seven days. And thus much may suffice as to this whole feast in general. Now as to the very day of Pentecost itself, it may not be amiss to add something.

I. It is well known that the account of weeks and days from the Passover to Pentecost took its beginning from, and depended upon, the day of offering the sheaf of the first-fruits, Leviticus 23:15. But through the ambiguity of the phrase the morrow of the sabbath, there hath arisen a controversy betwixt the scribes and Baithuseans, whether by the sabbath ought to be understood the weekly sabbath (or, as the scribes commonly called it, the sabbath of the creation), or whether it should be understood of the sabbatical day, i.e. the first day of the seven days of passover, which was the solemn day, Exodus 12:16. The Baithuseans contend vehemently for the former, and will not have the sheaf offered but after the weekly sabbath. As suppose the first day of the passover should fall out upon the first day of the week, they would stay till the whole week with the sabbath day was run out; and then, on the morrow of that sabbath, i.e. the first day of the following week, they offered the sheaf. But the scribes, very differently, keep strictly to the sixteenth day of the month Nisan for offering the firstfruits without any dispensation, after the sabbatical day or the first day of the feast is over. And amongst other arguments by which they strengthen their opinion, those two different places of Scripture, Exodus 12:15, "Seven days ye shall eat unleavened bread," and Deuteronomy 16:8, "Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread," they, according to the sense they have, do thus reconcile, 'seven days, indeed, you shall eat unleavened bread'; that is, unleavened bread of the old wheat, on the first day of the feast, the sheaf being not yet offered; and unleavened bread of the new wheat, the remaining six days, after you have offered the firstfruits.

II. If the day of the firstfruits be to be taken into the number of the fifty days, which the authors now quoted do clearly enough affirm out of those words, Deuteronomy 16:9, "Number the seven weeks to thyself when thou beginnest to put the sickle into the corn"; then it will appear plain enough to any one that upon whatsoever day of the week the sheaf-offering should fall, on that day of the week the day of Pentecost would fall too. And hence the Baithuseans contended so earnestly that the morrow after the sabbath (on which it is commanded that the sheaf of the firstfruits should be offered) should be understood of the first day of the week, that so the day of Pentecost might fall out to be the first day of the week too: not so much in honour of that day (which is indeed our "Lord's day"), but that the Pentecost might have the more feast-days; that the Israelites might delight themselves for two days together, as one of them speaks out their meaning.

III. As to the year, therefore, we are now upon, wherein Christ ascended, and the Holy Ghost came down; the sheaf-offering was on the sabbath day. For the paschal lamb was eaten on Thursday; so that Friday (on which day our Saviour was crucified) was the first day of the feast, the sabbatical, or holiday. And the following day, which was their sabbath, was the second, on which the sheaf was offered whilst Christ lay in the grave. And for this very reason was it said to be a high day of the sabbath, John 19:31.

IV. Let us inquire, therefore, whether the day of Pentecost fell out on their sabbath day. I know, indeed, that the fifty days are reckoned by some from the resurrection of our Lord; and then Pentecost, or the fiftieth day, must fall on the first day of the week, that is, our Lord's day: but if we number the days from the common epocha, that is, from the time of offering the sheaf of firstfruits (which account doubtless St. Luke doth follow), then the day of Pentecost fell out upon the Jewish sabbath. And here, by the good leave of some learned men, it may be questioned, 'Whether the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the disciples on the very day of Pentecost, or no.' The reasons of this question may be these:

I. The ambiguity of the words themselves which may be either rendered, as we have done in English, when the day of Pentecost was fully come; or as they in the Italian, when it was fully gone. So that the phrase leaves it undetermined, whether the day of Pentecost was fully come or fully gone: and what is there could be alleged against it, should we render it in the latter sense?

II. It is worthy our observation, that Christ the antitype, in answering some types that represented him, did not tie himself up to the very day of the type itself for the fulfilling of it, but put it off to the day following. So it was not upon the very day of the Passover, but the day following, that Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us: it was not on the very day that the sheaf of the firstfruits was offered, but the day following, that Christ became the firstfruits of them that slept. So also did he institute the Christian sabbath not the same day with the Jewish sabbath wherein God had finished the work of his creation, but the day following, wherein Christ had finished the work of his redemption. And so it was agreeable to reason, and to the order wherein he disposed of things already mentioned, that he should indulge that mysterious gift of the Holy Ghost, not upon the day of the Jewish sabbath, but the day following, the day of his own resurrection from the grave; that the Spirit should not be poured out upon the same day wherein the giving of the law was commemorated, but upon a day that might keep up the commemoration of himself for ever.

III. We can hardly invent a more fit and proper reason why upon this day they should be all with one accord in one place, than that they were so gathered together for the celebration of "the Lord's day." So that although we have adventured to call it into question, whether the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the very day of the Jewish Pentecost, yet have we not done it with any love to contradiction, but as having considerable reason so to do, and with design of asserting to "the Lord's day" its just honour and esteem: for on that day, beyond all controversy, the Holy Ghost did come down amongst them.

(A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Exercitations upon the Acts, John Lightfoot)


See also Harvest 2
See also The Temple


Moza

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