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Shabbos 88


QUESTION: The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (OC 494:1) say that Shavuos falls on the sixth of Iyar, fifty days after the day of bringing the Omer offering (the second day of Pesach). This implies that Iyar of the year that the Torah was given was not a full (Malei) month, but was 29 days long, for if Iyar of that year was 30 days long, Matan Torah would have been on the fifty-*first* day after the day of the Omer offering, and not the fiftieth.

Our Sugya seems to conclude that according to the Rabanan, who maintain that the Torah was given on the *sixth* of Sivan, there were indeed fifty-*one* days between Pesach and Shavuos (since the Gemara (87b) resolves the Beraisa which conflicts with the opinion of the Rabanan by saying that Iyar of that year had 30 days). How, then, can we rule that Shavuos is on the sixth of Sivan and only *fifty* days after the day of the Omer offering?

Besides, no matter how we rule, according to both Rebbi Yosi and the Rabanan, the Torah was given on the fifty-first day. According to the Rabanan Iyar was 30 days, as we explained above, and according to Rebbi Yosi Iyar was 29 days but the Torah was given on the *7th* of Sivan, or 51 days after the day of the Omer offering.


(a) The MACHTZIS HA'SHEKEL explains that this question is only a question if the Jewish people left Egypt on a Thursday (which would mean that there are fifty-one days between the second day of Pesach (Friday) and the day they received the Torah (Shabbos)). The Seder Olam, though, says that they left Egypt on a *Friday*, and thus the Torah, which was given on a Shabbos, was given *fifty* days later. (The Seder Olam also states that the Man started falling on a Monday. Even though the Gemara derived from verses that the Man started falling on a Sunday, this inference is not at all explicit in the verses, and the simple understanding of the verses does not imply that the Man started falling on a Sunday). We rule like the Seder Olam, and not like the Gemara.

(It should be noted that according to the Seder Olam, the tenth of Nisan (the day that the animals for the Korban Pesach were designated) was not Shabbos but Sunday -- contrary to what the TUR in OC 430 quotes from the Seder Olam -- since the Jews left Egypt on a Friday, as the PERISHAH points out.)

(b) The SEFAS EMES explains that the TUR holds that the Jewish people went out of Egypt on a *Thursday* (as he says in OC 430), and that the Torah was given on a *Friday* and not on Shabbos (as the Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer ch. 46 maintains). The Sefas Emes himself points out that this is problematic, because the Tur himself (OC 292) states that the Torah was given on Shabbos.

(c) The RIVASH (#96) writes that the festival of Shavuos has nothing to do with the day upon which the Torah was given. Shavuos comes fifty days after the day of the Omer offering, whether or not it falls on the day that the Torah was given. The reason we call Shavuos "Z'man Matan Toraseinu" is because the way our calendar is set up, the festival falls on the sixth of Sivan, which is the day of the month on which the Torah was given (according to the Rabanan, whose opinion we follow). Unlike the day upon which the Torah was given, our 6th of Sivan falls *fifty* days after the Omer offering, while the original day of Matan Torah was fifty-one days after the Omer (because they left Egypt on a Thursday and received the Torah on Shabbos, as our Gemara states).

(d) The MAGEN AVRAHAM (OC 494) cites from SEFER ASARAH MA'AMAROS that by adding a day on his own, Moshe Rabeinu alluded to the second day of Yom Tov which is observed outside of Israel. Thus, the Torah was actually *supposed* to have been given on the fiftieth day after the Omer of that first year, which is why our holiday begins on the fiftieth day after the Omer. The Torah was actually given on the fifty-first day to symbolize that that day would be Yom Tov as well, when the Jews would go into exile. That is, just like Moshe Rabeinu made that day into the day of Kabalas ha'Torah, the Rabanan would later make that day into Yom Tov. The BEIS HA'LEVI (Parshas Yisro) expounds on the idea cited by the Magen Avraham. The Beis ha'Levi explains that even though the Jewish people received the Torah on the fifty-first day, the day that the Torah was *given* was the fiftieth day, as we shall explain.

The Gemara (88b) says that the angels did not want the Torah to be given to Moshe. Why not? What were the angels going to do with the Torah? As Moshe Rabeinu argued, none of the Mitzvos are applicable to heavenly bodies; they are relevant only for humans!

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 61a) states that the verse "Lo ba'Shamayim Hi" ("the Torah is not in the heavens") means that the authority to expound and elucidate the Torah is not in the heavens, but was to the Sages. The angels argued that *this authority* should not be given to man, because they did not think that it was appropriate for man to have the power to legislate in Torah matters.

Moshe's decision to delay by one day the giving of the Torah was based on a Hekesh, as the Gemara explains ("just like the second day of Perishah was a day that follows a night, so, too, the first day must be a day that follows a night"). By using a Hekesh to derive a Torah law (i.e. the day that the Torah should be given), Moshe Rabeinu was asserting that the Torah was given to man to expound. The Gemara adds that indeed, Hashem agreed to Moshe's action.

Therefore, even if we rule in accordance with Rebbi Yosi that we received the Torah on the seventh day, that was the day of *Kabalas ha'Torah*, when the Jews *received* the Torah. The day before, though, was the day of *Matan* Torah, when Hashem *gave* man the ability to make decisions regarding the Torah.

QUESTION: The Gemara says that at Har Sinai, Hashem held the mountain above the Jewish people and they accepted the Torah under pressure. The Gemara explains that because of this involuntary acceptance of the Torah, the Jewish people had a "Moda'a Rabah l'Oraisa" -- a claim of immunity for any transgressions that they might commit. This "Moda'ah Rabah" lasted until the Jewish people willfully accepted the Torah during the time of Purim, nearly a thousand years later.

If the Jewish people had this claim of immunity due to their forced acceptance of the Torah, why were they punished during the interim years for their sins, before they accepted the Torah willfully?

In addition, what does it mean that they were forced to accept the Torah? The Torah tells us that the Jewish people exclaimed, "Na'aseh v'Nishma," which implies that they willfully accepted the Torah!


(a) TOSFOS (DH Moda'a) answers that although the "Moda'ah Rabah" vindicated them from punishments for most sins, they *were* punished for the sin of Avodah Zarah. The reason is because the Jewish people did accept upon themselves, willfully, not to practice idolatry.

As for how the Gemara can say that their acceptance of the Torah was against their will when we know that they said "Na'aseh v'Nishma," Tosfos explains that initially, before they stood at Har Sinai, they said "Na'aseh v'Nishma," intending to accept the Torah willfully. However, when they stood at Har Sinai, Hashem had to hold the mountain over them lest they change their minds out of fright, when they saw the mountain afire and the full awe of the Divine presence (which caused their souls to leave their bodies).

(b) The MIDRASH TANCHUMA (Parshas Noach) explains that they willfully accepted Torah sh'bi'Ch'tav, the Written Torah (the Pentateuch). If so, it was for the laws of Torah sh'bi'Ch'tav that they were punished. The "Moda'a" was for Torah sh'Ba'al Peh, the Oral Torah, which they were forced to accept. They did not accept it willfully because it is much more difficult.

(c) The RAMBAN and RASHBA explain that when they accepted the Torah, they accepted to keep it in the land of Israel. The land of Israel was being given to them only on condition that they keep the Torah (see Tehilim 105:24). The "Moda'a" was in effect only after they were exiled from the land (see Sanhedrin 105a).

On Purim they accepted the Torah out of love even in the Diaspora. They wanted to never again be separated from Hashem, so they accepted the Torah such that even if they must go into exile again, they will still remain loyal to the Torah. Thus, the "Moda'a" was no longer in force.

The explanation of the Ramban is consistent with his explanation (Vayikra 18:25, Bereishis 26:5) that the primary goals of the Mitzvos are fulfilled only in the land of Israel. Although we must observe the Mitzvos outside of Israel as well, nevertheless the observance of the Torah does not accomplish as much in the spiritual realms when done outside of Israel as it accomplishes when done in Israel.

The gentile said to Rava, "You are a hasty nation, who put its mouth before its ears" (by saying "Na'aseh v'Nishma," accepting to do the Mitzvos even before hearing what those Mitzvos are). The PIRCHEI NISAN (in Koheles Yitzchak, Parshas Yisro) uses this Gemara to explain a Gemara earlier.

In the Gemara earlier (77b), Rebbi Zeira asked Rav Yehudah why -- when the flock walks along -- the goats go before the sheep. The commentators explain that the Jewish people are compared to sheep, and the gentiles are compared to goats (sheep are white, representing purity and holiness, while goats are dark, representing impurity and depravity). Pirchei Nisan suggests another explanation for the metaphor.

The Gemara in Bechoros (35a) states that a person is permitted to make a blemish in a Bechor before its head emerges from the womb, so that when it is born it will not have the Kedushah of a Bechor (see Insights to Bechoros 3b). The Gemara describes how one makes such a blemish. For a goat, one should blemish its ear, because its ear is the first part of its body to come out when it is being born. For sheep, one should make the blemish on its lips, because the lips are the first part of the sheep to come out. This is the reason that the Jewish people are compared to sheep. The Jewish people are compared to sheep because they put their mouths first, before their ears, when they said "Na'aseh v'Nishma." The gentile nations, on the other hand, put their ears first -- they wanted to hear what was written in the Torah before accepting. Therefore, they are compared to a goat, whose ear comes out first when it is being born.

QUESTION: The Gemara cites the verse, "[He is] like an apple tree ("Tapuach") amongst the trees of the forest..." (Shir HaShirim 2:3) and asks, why are the Jews compared to an apple tree? The Gemara answers that just like an apple tree reverses the natural order and produces its fruit before its leaves, so too the Jews reversed the natural order [when they accepted the Torah at Har Sinai] by saying, "We will do" before saying "We will hear."

The implication of the Gemara is that the apple tree is different from all other trees. While other trees produce leaves before producing fruit, the apple tree produces its apples before sprouting its leaves. As TOSFOS (DH Piryo Kodem) points out, however, this claim seems to have no basis in reality. The apple tree produces its fruit no different than any other tree!

RABEINU TAM therefore suggests that the word "Tapuach" here does not mean an apple tree, but rather an Esrog tree, as the word "Tapuach" is sometimes used. Rabeinu Tam explains that the Gemara (Sukah 35a) tells us that the fruit of the Esrog remains on its tree from year to year. Our Gemara, then, means that *last* year's Tapuach (i.e. Esrog) precedes *this* year's leaves.

However, why is this a change in the order of nature? When last year's fruit first began to grow, it indeed followed last year's leaves, just like the fruit of all other trees! How can this be compared to the Jews' declaring "We will do" before "We will hear?"

ANSWER: The Gemara (Bava Kama 35a) states that the Jewish people merited to receive the Torah because they had meticulously kept the seven Noachide Laws that preceded the Torah. This, perhaps, is why they said the words "We will do" before the words "We will hear." How can one "do" a request that he has not yet heard? Perhaps what the Jewish people meant to say was, "Hashem, see that we continue to *do* what You have commanded us in the past. This demonstrates that we are prepared to *hear* more Mitzvos!"

If this is true, we can understand why the Jews who reacted in such a manner are compared to the Esrog tree. The Esrog tree still has fruit from the previous year hanging on it when it sprouts the next year's leaves. So, too, the Jewish people still were performing the old Mitzvos that they had already been given, when Hashem asked them to take on more Mitzvos. Just like the Esrog tree, they proudly showed their old "fruit" (i.e. actions), when new "leaves" (Mitzvos) were forthcoming. This was what the Jews meant by declaring "We will do" the Mitzvos, before saying "We will hear" the Mitzvos. (M. Kornfeld)


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