As we stand poised a short few days before the Holiday of Shavuos, it is pertinent to reflect on the basics of the holiday.
The Torah describes the holiday of Shavous as a holiday when the land owners in Israel are required to begin bringing their first budded fruits to the Temple and ceremoniously present it to a Kohain. Additionally, the Torah prescribes that two loaves of newly harvested wheat bread are to be waved in the Temple, while accompanied by animal sacrifices.
The Torah calls the holiday Shavuos – which means weeks, for its date is determined by the counting of seven weeks from the second day of Pesach.
The Torah’s description of Shavuos doesn’t mention the monumental historical occurrence of the day. Just one quick look at our prayers shows that Shavuos is referred to as the time when G-d gave us the Torah. Yet, when describing the Holiday, the Torah does not state what historically happened on Shavuos. Why?
An answer offered is that the Torah chose to leave out the historical event of G-d’s Revelation, to stress to us the importance and significance of the Oral tradition in understanding the Torah. Without the Oral tradition the Torah would not be understood.
When our leader Moshe was in Heaven for 40 days and nights he was taught the Oral Torah from the Almighty Himself. Moshe then orally taught the nation and explained the written ‘short notes’ of the Torah. This oral tradition eventually was committed to print in the form of the Mishna and Talmud.
To underscore this, the Holiday of Shavuos, which encompasses the totality of Torah – the blend of the written and the Oral Torah – is known to us primarily through our Oral tradition.
Our Tradition tells us that there are 613 Mitzvos in the Torah. The Torah does not list the laws by number, it is our Halachic codifiers, such as Maimonides, who list them with the support from verses of the Torah. The 613 Mitzvos are divided into two categories, 248 positive commandments and 365 prohibitions.
Our Sages tell us that each of the 620 letters in the Tablets of the Ten Commandments represent a Mitzvah of the Torah, with the additional seven letters representing the seven Rabbinically instituted Mitzvos. These include, Chanukah, Purim, the recitation of Hallel, blessing before food and Mitzvos, establishing an Airuv, washing hands before eating bread and the lighting of the Shabbos candles.
Generally we associate Mitzvos with either doing something, or refraining from doing something that is forbidden. However, there are six Mitzvos that are commandments about what we must constantly believe in our minds. We are guaranteed to receive Heavenly reward for the mere recall of these beliefs at any time.
The purpose of these mitzvos is so that we will have G-d on our minds and be continually conscious of His presence. This will serve as a support so that we will be mindful to fulfill His commands.
The majority of these six constant laws come from the Ten Commandments and the Shema prayer.
1) To believe that there is One creator who is aware of and is in control of all happenings. This is the first command – I am Hashem your G-d who took you out of the Land of Egypt.
2) Not to believe is any false gods other than the Almighty. This is the second command – Do not serve any other entities other than Me.
3) That G-d is One and He has no partners in His ruling of the world. This is the first statement of the Shema – Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, G-d is the One and Only.
4) To love G-d. This is the second verse of the Shema – V’ahavta eis Hashem – And you should love Hashem you G-d.
5) To fear G-d, as He is aware of all our actions and thoughts.
6) Not to stray from G-d by following the passions of one’s heart and eyes – primarily, illicit behavior and heretical and blasphemous beliefs. This is from the third portion of the Shema – “Do not explore after your heart and eyes through which you stray.”
The calendar date for Shavuos is the 6th day of Sivan. Already on the sixth day of creation G-d alluded to the 6th of Sivan.
At the end of the description of the sixth day of creation, the Torah states, “And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Rashi cites the Medrash which wonders why the Torah specifically highlights ‘the’ sixth day when it does not do so for any other day of creation. The Medrash explains “The sixth day” alludes to the Sixth day of Sivan when G-d would Reveal Himself at Mount Sinai and the Jews would accept the Torah. With the completion of the creation of the world on the sixth day, G-d stipulated that the world would be in a suspended state until the sixth of Sivan when Torah would be accepted and only then would creation come to its completed state. The ultimate purpose of creation was for us to be given the Torah and accept it!