Feast of Shavuot by A Rood Awakening Torah Commentator Glenn McWilliams
Sunday, May 4, 2008 5:36:43 AM
Feast of Shavuot
Shavuot: Torah given at Mt. Sinai
Chag(1) Ha Shavuot or The Feast of Weeks could well be called Chag HaShemot or The Feast of Names. Throughout the scriptures as well as tradition this feast of YHWH has been called by many names;
Chag HaShavuot-Feast of Weeks
Yom HaBikkurim-Day of First Fruits
Chag Hakatzir- Feast of Harvest
Zeman Mattan Toratenu-Time of Receiving Torah
Each of these names describes some unique attribute of this particular feast. The first three names for this feast, Chag HaShavuot, Atzeret and Pentecost are closely connected. All of these names are related to the commandment to count the weeks between Chag HaBikkurimii which followed Chag HaMaztotiii and Yom HaBikkurim.iv
"And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering;seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto YHWH." (Leviticus 23:15-16)
This period of counting is known as Sfirat HaOmer, or The Counting of the Omer. An omer is a measure or sheaf of either barley or wheat. Before any of the newly harvested grain could be eaten or used an omer of the first fruits of the grain was brought to the temple for a wave offering. This bringing of the first fruits happened three times a year as we shall see. But for now, let us focus upon the counting. Between the first wave offering of the barley harvest, and the second wave offering of the wheat harvest, YHWH commanded that we make a counting. We should take note that there are two different counting's involved in determining the day of this feast. The first counting mentioned is the counting of Sabbaths. From the time of the first wave offering we are to count seven Sabbaths, and the next day is Chag HaShavuot. It is from this counting of shavuot or weeks that the feast received the name Chag HaShavuot or Feast of Weeks. We are also instructed to number fifty days. It this counting of fifty days that the Apostolic Writings make reference to when the Feast of Pentecost is mentioned.v Since this 50th day also marks the conclusion of the counting's, this Feast is also sometimes referred to as Atzeret HaSfirah, the conclusion of the counting, or Aztzeret Pesach, the conclusion of the Passover season.vi While two different methods of counting are given the outcome is still the same. Seven times seven days equals 49 days plus the day after the Sabbath and we have 50 days. The instructions for locating this particular feast on the calendar are quite specific. But even with very specific instructions given there is still controversy over when Chag HaShavuot is to be celebrated. The controversy stems from two different readings concerning the starting point for the counting. The Torah reads,
"And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath. . ." (Leviticus 23:15)
The issue in debate is the definition of the phrase "the Sabbath" as it is used in this passage. . .
"In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is YHWH'S Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread unto YHWH; for seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto YHWH seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. And YHWH spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest unto the priest; And he shall wave the sheaf before YHWH to be accepted for you:on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it." (Leviticus 23:4-12)
Rabbinic Judaism teaches that the "Sabbath" referred to in this phrase is the first day of Chag HaMatzot which YHWH commanded to be a day without work. By equating this commandment for a day without work to the Sabbath the rabbis have established that Chag HaBikkurim would be the day after the first day of Chag HaMatzot. Thus, on the Rabbinic calendar Chag HaBikkurim is assigned the fixed day of the 16th of Nissan. For Rabbinic Judaism Passover is on the 14th of Nissan, Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th of Nissan, First Fruits is celebrated on the 16th of Nissan and 50days later is Chag HaShavuot. The dilemma encountered in this means of counting is that it does not fit the description of the Torah. We must remember that there are two ways of counting: counting the weeks or Sabbaths and counting the days. Both of these means must be in agreement. According to the Torah Chag Shavuot is to be celebrated not only on the 50th day of the counting of the omer but on the day after the seventh Sabbath.
"And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete:Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto YHWH." (Leviticus 23:15-16)
The Karaite Jews, the Samaritans, as well as a minority of Rabbinic Jewsvii, have long recognized this inconsistency in the practice of fixing an assigned date to Chag HaBikkurim. If Chag HaMatzot began on Wednesday, then Chag HaBikkurim would fall out on a Thursday. Fifty days later would be Chag HaShavuot also falling out on a Thursday.viii The problem is that there is no commandment designating Wednesday the 49th day of the counting of the omer as a Sabbath. The Torah clearly teaches that Chag HaShavuot is to be "the morrow after the seventh Sabbath". With this being said, it would stand to reason, that the title "Sabbath" at both ends of the counting process are referring to the weekly Sabbath, and not the first day of Chag HaMatzot. In the Karaite reckoning of time, Chag HaBikkurim would fall out on the first day of the week the day after the weekly Sabbath. Fifty days later, again on the first day of the week, the day after the weekly Sabbath, would be the celebration of Chag HaShavuot. There are several other details that would seem to confirm this method of reckoning. We should note that YHWH gave specific datesix for both the Passover (the fourteenth day of the first month) and Chag HaMatzot (the fifteenth day of the first month) but did not assign a fixed date for Chag HaBikkurim. Instead it is assigned by following the Sabbath, which would always place it on the first day of the week. Second we should take note that in this particular passage where the counting is assigned, YHWH never refers to the Passover or Chag HaMatzot as "the Sabbath". The title "The Sabbath" seems to be reserved for the weekly Sabbath. The Apostolic Writings may also shed some light on this matter. Since the debate begins the establishing of Chag HaBikkurim we may see how this plays out in the life and death of Messiah.
The Christian Church has traditionally held to the erroneous custom that Y'shua was crucified on Friday, in the grave on Saturday, and rose from the grave early Sunday morning. Even counting partial days the whole event would have taken only three days and two nights. If the Feasts of YHWH are indeed shadow pictures pointing to the Messiah then the rabbinic reckoning would line up perfectly with the Church's teaching. The Passover (Messiah) is sacrificed on the 14th, Unleavened Bread (Messiah's un-decaying body is in the tomb) on the 14th followed by First Fruits (Messiah's Resurrection) on the 16th. For many believers in Y'shua this would seem to verify the rabbinic reckoning. But a careful look at the words of Messiah may change this impression. Responding to the scribes' and Pharisees' request for a sign Y'shua said,
"An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days, and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:29-40)
The sign that Messiah gave to verify that he was/is indeed the Messiah is the fact that he would be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth. If the Church and the rabbis agree on the dating of Chag HaBikkurim as being the day immediately following Chag HaMatzot, then they also agree that Y'shua is not the Messiah, for he did not fulfill the very sign he gave to prove that he was! Clearly the testimonies of the Apostolic Writings declare that Y'shua was raised from the dead on the first day of the week.
"In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher. And behold there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. . .and the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Y'shua which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said." (Matthew 28:1-6)
"And very early in the morning the first day of the week they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sin. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us way the stone from the door of the sepulcher? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into these pulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Y'shua of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: . . .now when Y'shua was risen early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. . . " (Mark 16:2-9)
"Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, brining the spices which they had prepared, and certain others, which them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher. And they entered in and found not the body of the Lord Y'shua." (Luke 24:1-3)
"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. . ." (John 20:1)
If our faith demands that Y'shua spoke the truth about who he is, then he fulfilled the sign of Jonah that he gave to the scribes and Pharisees. In other words, if Y'shua rose from the dead on the first day of the week and was three days and three nights in the belly of the earth then he could not have possibly been crucified on Friday as the Church teaches. Instead Y'shua would have been crucified on Wednesday afternoon and risen between Sabbath and the first day of the week. Again if the Feasts of the Lord are indeed shadow pictures of Messiah, then this would mean that Chag HaBikkurim fell out on the first day of the week. This would only be possible if Chag HaBikkurim is understood as being the day after the weekly Sabbath. With this said, then if would also appear that the feast of Pentecost recorded in the book of Acts likewise fell out on the first day of the week. The only biblical evidence to support this possibility is circumstantial at best. Luke writes in the book of Acts,
"And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Shaul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." (Acts 20:7)
This meeting most likely was at sundown following the Sabbath. A similar passage appears in the writing of Shaul,
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the congregations of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store, as Elohim hat prospered him that there be no gatherings when I come." (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
He we learn that it was the practice of the believers to gather together on the first day of the week. If Pentecost falls out on the first day of the week it should not surprise us then to read,
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." (Acts 2:1)
Thus we may here find some tenuous evidence that in the time of Y'shua that Shavuot fell upon the first day of the week. Beyond this rather thin evidence there is little in the Apostolic Writings to add to this debate. Regardless of when Chag HaShavuot is celebrated the message of the counting should not be missed. We should remember the response of our father Jacob when questioned by Pharaoh concerning the patriarch's age. Jacob responded,
"The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and devil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage." (Genesis 47:9)
Here we see that righteous Jacob has counted the days of the years of his life. We too should count each day as a blessing. By counting our days we begin to appreciate each day and live it to its fullness. The Moses prayed,
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."(Psalm 90:12)
We should also take note that the counting is to begin with the barely harvest and end with the wheat harvest. Barley is, for the most part, considered to be coarse grain used primarily as animal fodder. It is therefore often associated with our base or animal nature. We see the evidence of this in its use in the Sotah Laws.x When a husband suspects that his wife is unfaithful he brings her to the temple to undergo a very sobering ritual. As the jealous husband and suspected wife approach the altar an offering of coarse ground barley meal is brought without oil or frankincense. The barley is to represent the fact that the woman was acting from the lower animal nature. As we count the omer from Chag HaBikkurim to Chag HaShavuot we should be moving from the coarse animal nature to the refined spiritual nature. It is hoped that by counting the days we will build upon each day utilizing it as Moses prayed to apply our hearts to wisdom. This movement from the flesh to the spirit may be understood to connect with Chag HaShavuot in another way. As we have already stated above Josephus and the Talmud both make reference to Chag HaShavuot as "Zeman Mattan Toratenu" a time of receiving Torah". While nothing in the Tanach specifically identifies Chag HaShavuot as the day that Moses received the Torah, tradition has chosen this day as a special time of celebrating the reception of the Torah. This tradition started largely due to the destruction of the second temple, and the forced exile of the children of Israel from Jerusalem. After the extinguishing of the Bar Kochba rebellion of 135 C.E. the Jewish people were largely dispersed and without a temple, priesthood, or home. It was becoming impossible to keep the Torah as received from Moses without the temple. Therefore in 140 C.E. the Sanhedrin convened in the village of Usha (Modern Haifa) and decided to change the focus of Chag HaShavuot from its agricultural foundation to the celebration of the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai which took place in the third month of the year.xi So it is that Chag HaShavuot became the celebration of Torah and the birthday of the nation of Israel. When we connect the concept of Chag HaShavuot with giving of Torah and the move from the barley to wheat, from flesh to the spirit we may also begin to understand why the Ruach HaKodeshxii was poured out on the followers of Messiah during Chag HaShavuot. The Book of Acts reports,
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with Ruach HaKodesh, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Ruach gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4)
Needless to say this event caused quite a stir in Jerusalem at the time. Since Jews from all of over the country and from other countries were in Jerusalem for the feast this was an opportune time to preach the message of Messiah Y'shua. And this is what Kepha did. In response to the crowd's curiosity and suspicion Kepha declared that this event was simply the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel:
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit." (Joel 2:28-29)
This prophecy is reminiscent of two other prophecies;
"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
"Behold the days come saith YHWH, that I will make a new covenant with house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Nor according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith YHWH: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days saith YHWH I will put my Torah in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their Elohim, and they shall be my people." (Jeremiah 31:31-33)
We may understand from these passages that the move from barley to wheat, from flesh to spirit is the difference between keeping the Torah in the power of our own flesh, and keeping Torah by the compulsion of the Ruach HaKodesh stirring our heart to love YHWH. Shaul would describe this difference in very practical terms.
"But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Messiah, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come we are no longer under the schoolmaster." (Galatians 3:23-25)
Maybe these two connected celebrations of the first fruits of the field are indeed a shadow picture of the renewing of the covenant. The first representing the time when the children of Israel roughly kept the Torah as it was imposed upon them from the outside. The second wave offering may represent the fact that we are now to keep the Torah from within, by the compulsion of the Ruach stirring in our hearts. We should note that the wave offering of Chag HaShavuot is not simply flour or raw grain, but two loaves baked with fine wheat flour.xiii The fine flour speaks of a life well refined. What may be surprising to some is that these loaves were also to contain leaven. As we learned during Chag HaMatzot leaven is a sign of sin, rot, and decay. This serves as a reminder that prior to Messiah's return we may keep the Torah by the compulsion of the Ruach HaKodesh but we still keep it imperfectly. Therefore we should never become prideful or arrogant about how we keep the Torah. Though we may outwardly look acceptable and refined on the outside we all still suffer with leaven within. Therefore we continue to wait with the rest of creation for the completion of YHWH'S restoration work through Messiah. These two tablets may also serve as reminders of the two houses; the House of Israel and the House of Judah that were divided by sin, yet shall be united by one and the same Ruach HaKodesh. The Two loaves may also remind us of the two tablets of that Moses received on Sinai. These tablets were the work and writing of YHWH.xiv These were the tablets that Moses threw down from the mount and broke. The second set of tablets that were written on was the work of Moses.xv These second tablets are the shadow picture of our hearts being offered to YHWH that he may write his Torah upon them. Again the leaven demonstrates that our hearts and motivations are not always pure and therefore our keeping of Torah not perfect.
This message is somewhat confirmed by its location in the yearly cycle of the feasts. Shavuot issituated between the spring and fall feasts
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Chag is the Hebrew word for "Feast" or "Celebration"
The First Fruits of the barley harvest
Chag HaMatzot is the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or The Feast of Matzah
Yom HaBikkurim is the First Fruits of the wheat harvest.
The Feasts of the Lord, Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Pg. 90
www.light-of-israel.org/pentecost_morrow_after_the_sabbath.shtml, Hacham Mordecai Alfandari
www.karaite-korner.org/shavuot.shtml "Shavuot" by Nehemiah Gordon
All of the Feasts of YHWH have specific dates given with the exception of Chag HaBikkurim and Chag Shavuot which are both to be celebrated "the day after the Sabbath". ( Passover the 14th, Chag HaMaztot 15th, Teruah 1st, Yom Kippurim 10th, Sukkot 15th ).
The Feasts of the Lord, Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, Thomas Nelson Publishing Pp.93-94
Ruach HaKodesh is Hebrew for The Holy Spirit