Modern Commentary

Torah & Spirit
Family Life







The last day of the counting of the 'Omer, the fiftieth day, miqra' commands us to regard as a holiday and a holy convocation, the feast of weeks [Editors note: Hebrew for week is shavu'a`], the feast of the first fruits, the feast of the harvest. It is part of the eighteen days mentioned in the section beginning, "These are the holidays of YHWH, holy convocations" (Wayyiqra' 23.4), and ending, "These are the appointed times of YHWH which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations" (Wayyiqra' 23.37). Moreover, the term 'holy convocation' is applied specifically to this fiftieth day in two places, first in the verse, "..you shall make a proclamation on the self-same day, there shall be a holy convocation for you" (Wayyiqra' 23.21), and second in the verse, "..on the day of the first fruits...you shall have a holy convocation" (Bemidbar 28.26).

It is called the feast of weeks, because it marks the conclusion of the count of seven weeks, as it is written, "with your seven weeks, " (Bemidbar 28.26), meaning, 'after your seven weeks,' the preposition "with" having the force of "after," as in "With the coming of all Israel" (Devarim 31.11), and "With the completion of the days of her purification" (Wayyiqra' 12.6).

It is called the day of the first fruits because on this day there takes place the offering of the two loaves of showbread made of the first ears of new wheat, "..you shall present a new meal offering to YHWH" (Wayyiqra' 23.16). It consists of two cakes of leavened bread made of white-flour dough and weighing two tenths of an ephah, which is baked and then brought to the sanctuary, "From your swellings you shall bring the bread of the waving of the sheaf" (Wayyiqra' 23.17). With it there are to be offered seven lambs, a bull, and two rams, forming the burnt offering; the meal offering and the drink offering belonging to it are to be ordered according to the rules set forth in the section, "When you have come into the land... and will make an offering by fire to YHWH, a burnt offering, or a sacrifice" (Bemidbar 15.2-3), and what follows thereafter. The same is true of all the other references to meal offerings and drink offerings which are not specified in detail - they are meant to conform to the rules explained in that section. This burnt offering is followed by a kid of goats as a sin offering, augmented by two lambs for a peace offering, to be eaten by the priest and his family.
It is also called the feast of the harvest, because at that time wheat reaches the state of being ready for harvest and the people begin to do the harvesting. That is why the offering brought consists of two loaves of bread made of the first ears of this new wheat, "...the feast of the harvest, the first fruits of your labors which you have sown in the field" (Shemot 23.16).

Private peace offerings are not permitted on the days when work is forbidden. Therefore, the peace offerings mentioned on that day must be public offerings, which belong to the priest, as stated above. Now, public peace offerings are not allowed on Shabbat - a matter agreed upon by all Jewry. This is another proof that Shavu`ot could not possibly fall on Shabbat. Were the count of fifty days - of which Shavu`ot is the last - permitted to begin on the second day of Pesach, whatever day of the week it might happen to be, as the dissenters assert, Shavu`ot would accordingly fall on varying days of the week, sometimes on Shabbat, sometimes on other days. It follows, therefore, that it must fall always on the same weekday, Sunday, and never otherwise.