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Shabbat Parashat Bamidbar 5772

Parashat Hashavuah: Ready or Not? No, Only When Ready

Rav Daniel Mann

One of the better known Rashis in the Chumash tells us that the creation of the world was waiting for completion on the sixth day of Sivan, when the Torah was to be given to Israel. One would think that this date is extremely significant. However, the date is never mentioned in the Torah. When going through the dates of the holidays in Emor and in Pinchas, the date for Shavuot is omitted, needing to be extrapolated from the date of Pesach. As a matter of fact, Chazal argue whether the giving of the Torah was done on the sixth day or the seventh and we assume that it was, indeed, on the seventh of Sivan (Shabbat 86b). This is because Moshe suggested that the giving be delayed one day in order for Bnei Yisrael to be better prepared. How could Moshe alter the critical timing due to a matter that Hashem had apparently not required?

Perhaps Moshe took the cue from Hashem. According to a midrash in at least three places (see Tanchuma, Yitro 9) Hashem actually wanted to give the Torah to Bnei Yisrael right after they left Egypt (it is not clear on precisely what date). However, since Bnei Yisrael quarreled at each encampment, Hashem did not give it earlier. He waited until they came to the Desert of Sinai and encamped opposite the mountain “as one person with one heart” (see Shemot 19:2 and Rashi, ad loc.). Moshe, thus, saw that the crucial thing was not the date on the calendar but the development of Bnei Yisrael in the proper way.

What did Moshe feel would be gained by waiting? According to Rashi (Shemot 19:15) Moshe calculated that if the Torah was given on the sixth, some women would be unable to become purified by that time. This type of impurity would not have raised a halachic problem in this context, and there were types of impurity that existed anyway. However, Moshe realized the crucial role that the women would play in the proper acceptance of the Torah. In the first message Hashem gave to Bnei Yisrael regarding their preparedness to accept the Torah and enter the special covenant, He told Moshe to speak to “Beit Ya’akov” and “Bnei Yisrael” (Shemot 19:3). Rashi identifies Beit Yaakov as the women, making it interesting that the women are mentioned first in this context. Moshe decided that for Bnei Yisrael to be fully ready to encounter Hashem and accept the Torah, the women should have the opportunity to be at their spiritual best.

Rav Dessler (Michtav Me’eliyahu, vol. II) discusses the danger of the Torah being given with a display of love between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael without the requisite level of fear of Hashem and human effort. Therefore, when Bnei Yisrael expressed apprehension in hearing Hashem directly present the words of the Torah to them, Hashem accepted it (see Shemot 20:17). Thus, we see on several levels that the nation’s having the right attitude and preparing for the giving of the Torah was more important than it being at the most opportune time and optimal manner.

May we relive the giving of the Torah through a sense of unity, a proper balance between love and fear of Hashem, and in a manner that allows both men and women to get the most out of the opportunity. These steps will help ensure the right circumstances for fulfilling the Torah in ever-increasing quality.


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