In this week’s reading, we learn a Mitzvah pertaining to the current time period on the Jewish calendar: the Counting of the Omer. After bringing a special offering of an Omer (sheaf) of grain on the second day of the Passover holiday, the Torah commands, “And you shall count for yourselves from the day following the day of rest [the first day of Passover], from the day of your bringing of the Omer of waving, seven complete weeks shall they be, until the day following the seventh week shall you count fifty days, and bring a new meal-offering to HaShem” [Lev. 23:15-16]. That final, fiftieth day, the one when the new meal-offering was brought, is the holiday of Shavuos, the day of the giving of the Torah.
The word Shavuos means weeks, as the holiday follows the seven counted weeks from the offering of the Omer. Our Sages teach that a holiday on the Jewish calendar isn’t merely a commemoration of an historical event, but a time when the same spiritual energies of that day come into the world again for each of us. So the day that we received the Torah, when G-d revealed himself to the Jewish nation on Mount Sinai, is literally known as “weeks.” Is that not minimizing the significance and holiness of the day? In our prayer books, it is called “the time of the Giving of our Torah.” Why isn’t that, instead, the name of the holiday?
It is also noteworthy that the Torah does not place this holiday, and only this holiday, on a specific day on the calendar. Because of the way the seven weeks span from the sixteenth of the month of Nissan, through the month of Iyar and into the month of Sivan, the Torah prescribes as much as a two day variation of the date of the holiday of Shavuos. [Each new month was sanctified by the Court in Jerusalem, based upon whether witnesses came to testify that they had seen the new moon on the thirtieth day of the previous month. Either the thirtieth or thirty-first day would begin the following month, and thus if Nissan and Iyar were both twenty-nine days long, Shavuos would come two days later on the calendar than if both months were thirty days long. If you’re confused, count out the days on a calendar and you’ll see that I’m right!]
So this incredible, holy day, the time when the spiritual energies of receiving the Torah come back into the world, doesn’t even have a set date on the calendar, and is merely known as the holiday of “weeks.” Again, why does this make sense, why is this not “underselling” the value of the holiday of Shavuos?
Remember that when the Jewish nation left Egypt, they were in a very low spiritual state. What happened during these fifty days was a process of elevation and cleansing, as the People of Israel removed themselves from impurity and brought themselves to a state of purity, such that they were prepared to receive the Torah. So the days in which we find ourselves now, the days of Counting the Omer, are days when that same spiritual energy, granting us a special ability to uplift ourselves and come closer to where G-d wants us to be, has come back into the world.
And that is why Shavuos cannot have a set date on the calendar, and why its name in no way minimizes its importance. On the contrary! Because this period of fifty days is also a specified time period when there is a special, unique energy. It is not just that there is a holiday of Passover with its spiritual energy, and a holiday of Shavous with its energy, and a bunch of days in between. No! The days in between are fifty days with their own special energy, one of uplift, that can bring a person up to spiritual heights to truly be ready to receive the Torah on the fiftieth day. And thus the day of receiving the Torah is called Shavuos, because it arrives, as it should, after a full seven weeks of preparation.
Each day during this period, let us remind ourselves that the days of counting the Omer do have their own energy, like a holiday unto themselves, which prepare us for the upcoming holiday. And let us take advantage of this time of uplift and cleansing, to be prepared to capture all we can of the holiday of Shavuos, when it arrives on the fiftieth day!