Historic Anticipation (Emor)
Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations. -Richard M. DeVos
Pesach (Passover) is among the better known and more celebrated Jewish holidays. However, exactly fifty days after Pesach we celebrate what might perhaps be an even more important and significant holiday, Shavuot. Pesach famously celebrates the liberation of the proto-nation of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Shavuot celebrates the Jewish people’s encounter with God fifty days later at Mount Sinai, where through the process of God’s revelation to us, we received His Torah, His commandments, and took on the covenant that is what truly makes the people of Israel into a Nation.
Shavuot is the only holiday that we have a biblical injunction to count towards. In this week’s Torah reading God commands:
“And you shall count for yourselves, from the day after the holiday (Pesach)… seven complete weeks, until the day after the seventh week, you shall count fifty days…”
The Bechor Shor on Leviticus 23:16 gives an analogy to a man who is in prison and a servant of the king comes to inform the prisoner that on such-and-such day the king will release him from prison, and that fifty days later, he will give him his daughter, the princess, in marriage. The prisoner’s initial thoughts are merely “I just hope he gets me out of here.” However, once he’s released and sees that the servant’s words came true, now he gets excited about the prospect of marrying the princess, and with great anticipation starts counting fifty days until the promised day.
So too, once the people of Israel witnessed Moses’ promise of redemption fulfilled, once they experienced the exodus from Egypt, they looked forward to what the Sages have termed the marriage ceremony between God and Israel, fifty days later.
God Himself commands that the counting be done every year in order to constantly endear the Torah to the Jewish nation, for the Torah is an indescribably precious gift God gave to Israel, a possession with which God, in a way beyond our comprehension, created the very universe.
May we appreciate anew the giving of the Torah and celebrate the anniversary of that matrimony with great anticipation.
On the birth of Eitan Tzvi Lustig. Mazal Tov to the entire family!