Emor 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Two Offerings

Parshas Emor

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“These are the appointed festivals of Hashem, the special times, which you shall designate in their proper time.


“You shall count for yourselves, from the day after the rest day (referring to the first day of Pesach (Passover), when we “rest” from acts of creation) seven weeks, they shall be complete. Until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count, fifty days, and you shall offer a new meal offering to Hashem” (Vayikra 23:15 -16).   This refers to the holiday of Shavuos (literally, weeks). Why is Shavuos reckoned by counting the days from Pesach, instead of having a specific date assigned, like the other holidays?


When we observe a holiday we are not celebrating something which happened in the past. For example, Pesach is not merely a celebration of our having left Egypt . When we celebrate Pesach, the same energy that was created by our leaving the constraints of a country infused with idol worship is once again reachable. In fact, we are reliving the Exodus (the concept of reliving the events is true by all holidays).


The first Shavuos in our history occurred seven weeks after the Exodus, when we received the Torah. The Slonimer Rebbe explains that this was not an independent holiday. Rather it was a continuation of the Exodus. Why did Hashem take us out of Egypt , to be like every other nation? What would have been the point of this exercise? Had He not taken us out we would have been absorbed into Egyptian culture, as many other nations had been.


His taking us out was for a very specific purpose: To be a “goy kadosh” — a special nation. The reason Shavuos is not identified by name is to teach us that the receiving of the Torah and the Exodus are irrevocably entwined. One without the other would serve no purpose; thus they are considered one holiday.


What is the significance of the new meal offering which was brought on Shavuos?


Before any grain produce of the new crop could be eaten, a measure of ground barley must be brought to the temple on the second day of Pesach. This symbolized that agricultural success is a gift from Hashem. Once it was brought, all grain that had taken root prior to this time could be eaten. In the Temple , however, grain from the new crop could not be eaten until two loaves, made from the new crop of grain, were brought into the temple on Shavuos. This is the “new meal offering” referred to in the verse.


The two offerings, one to permit personal use of the new crop, the other to permit its use in the Temple , are congruent with the times of the year in which they are brought. The one brought on the second day of Pesach relates to the physical freedom of man, thus enabling him to partake of the new crop. The one brought on Shavuos symbolizes the spiritual freedom of man, thus enabling the new crop to be used in the Temple . Our acceptance of the Torah is how we achieve true freedom.  


We can also learn another lesson from this. The first offering, brought on the second day of Pesach, was from the new barley crop. Barley is the least distinguished of the five grains (wheat, spelt, oats, rye and barley) and is a food commonly fed to animals. The two loaves that were offered on Shavuos were brought from the new wheat crop, wheat being the most distinguished of the five grains.


The elevation of the nature of the Shavuos offering from the Pesach offering is meant to be symbolic of the growth each Jew is meant to experience during the seven week countdown from Pesach to Shavuos.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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