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June 11, 2024- 5 Sivan 5784

06/10/2024 01:00:49 PM


Tradition holds that all creation was foreseen even before it began—that is, as part of a Divine plan. One example that is set forth comes in commentary of Rashi—Rabbi Shlomo ben Isaac (France, d. ca. 1040).  One outstanding paragraph suggests a direct link between ma’asei v’reisheet—the act of creation—and revelation of Torah to Israel.

יום הששי. הוֹסִיף ה' בַּשִּׁשִּׁי בִגְמַר מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית, לוֹמַר שֶׁהִתְנָה עִמָּהֶם, עַל מְנָת שֶׁיְּקַבְּלוּ עֲלֵיהֶם יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲמִשָּׁה חֻמְּשֵׁי תוֹרָה. דָּבָר אַחֵר יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי, כֻּלָּם תְּלוּיִם וְעוֹמְדִים עַד יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי, הוּא ו' בְּסִיוָן הַמּוּכָן לְמַתַּן תּוֹרָה: 

The sixth day: It added [the letter,] hay, to the word, sixth, (making it read, the sixth day, whereas all of the other days were not preceded with a hay), to say that He made a condition with [the acts of creation], that [the creation] was on condition that Israel would accept the five (which is the numerical equivalent of hay) books of the Torah. A different [explanation]: The sixth day - they were all dependent and waiting until the sixth day; that is the sixth of Sivan, which was [the day] prepared for the giving of the Torah.

As we celebrate today, on the very festival of Shavuot—Pentecost—the fiftieth counted day after Passover, which corresponds to the sixth of Sivan on the Jewish calendar, reading the words of the most read commentator on Torah, we need to play Jeopardy!, sussing out the question that is being raised. This one is quite transparent, hence a good starting point.

We turn to the opening verses of Genesis, where with conscious repetition the process of creation is putatively outlined. Day by day the newly created are mentioned, from a primordial disorder, through structures and creatures of growing complexity; each day is counted, too

; וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם חֲמִישִֽׁי׃ {פ}

And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

Each day, 1 through 5, is marked with the indefinite article; yet the last active day of creation differs:

וַֽיְהִי־עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹ֖קֶר י֥וֹם הַשִּׁשִּֽׁי׃ {פ}

And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Rashi’s question is clear: the grammar has changed; this day is a four-questions-at-Pesach worthy of our attention. Why is this day different from all other days? The answer he proposes illustrates the method, which is unequivocal. Nothing in Torah is superfluous—that is creation by design.

Moving forward, we face another issue. Jewish holidays are notably consistent in Torah (there are fewer than in modernity, to be sure) falling on Rosh Chodesh, and at mid-month. Exceptions are made—like Yom Kippur and in our case, Shavuot. If you follow the count of the Omer, the dating coincides simultaneously with the arrival at Mount Sinai and the 6th of Sivan.

 But how did Rashi get there? It was no mere invention, but based in Talmud:

We learned in a B’raita: "on the 6th of Sivan the 10 commandments were given, Rabbi Yose says on the 7th. Rav says: " Everyone agrees that the Jews arrived at Har Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Sivan.... and everyone agrees that the 10 commandments were given on Shabbat.... The argument is whether Rosh Chodesh was on a Sunday or a Monday. Rav Yose thinks that Rosh Chodesh that year was on Sunday (so the 7th is on Shabbos) ...The Rabbanan think that Rosh Chodesh that year was on Monday (so that Shabbos was on the 6th of Sivan).

בו' בחדש כו' - דהא דכתיב ויכסהו הענן ששת ימים ויקרא אל משה ביום השביעי סבירא להו כר' יוסי הגלילי דאמר בפ"ק דיומא (דף ד.) זה היה מעשה אחר עשרת הדברות ור' יוסי סבירא ליה דמשה וכל ישראל עומדים לקבל עשרת הדברות ולא בא הכתוב אלא לחלק כבוד למשה:

On the sixth of the month…: Since it is written “the cloud covered [Mount Sinai] six days, and God called to Moses on the seventh, it makes sense as R. Jose of the Galilee who is cited in the previous chapter of Yoma (Daf 4)—this occurred after [revelation of] the Ten Commandments, and in Rabbi Yose’s opinion, [that was when] Moses and all Israel were standing to receive the Ten Commandments. Ergo, this text comes only to increase glory to Moses.

Such is Torah’s relation to creation, revelation and covenant—neither scientific nor Darwinian, but a self-contained system that tries to justify it all. Revealed religion is not science, but has its own truth—commitment, constancy and the promise of human ability for tikkun olam—repairing the world.

Celebrate this festival day, afterwards there is still so much work to be done.

Chag Samei’ach!

P.S. This blog was written before the redemption of 4 captives from Gaza, a great mitzvah of pidyon shevu’im—the redemption of captives. We should be grateful for each success. The subsequent controversy over the large death toll in Gaza, however, needs scrutiny. IMHO: Hamas is the perpetrator, having failed to respond affirmatively to multiple offers of cease-fire. The dilemma is real for Israel, the choices are limited: Bring them home.

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784