The Appointed Times of YHVH—the Festival of Weeks
It is very strange to see an offering for sin for a festival of first-fruits of the harvest — the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot. Why was the need for sin and peace offerings on this solemn day when the people gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the giving of Torah to Israel? What sin could they have possibly done that would require a sin offering?
Before proceeding in studying the next appointed time of the Creator—the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot—the present author recommends that the reader should read first the article The Appointed Times of YHVH—the Festival of the First-fruits and the sequential study—the Festival of the First-fruits and the Messiah.
The reason being is that these two festivals are closely connected and it will be natural to study the appointed times in their chronological order in which they are given by the Creator.
We read in Leviticus 23 regarding the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, as follows:
These are the appointed times of Yehovah, set-apart gatherings which you are to proclaim at their appointed times: (Lev 23:4)
And from the morrow after the Shabbat, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, you shall count for yourselves: seven completed Shabbats. Until the morrow after the seventh Shabbat you count fifty days, then you shall bring a new grain offering to Yehovah. Bring from your dwellings for a wave offering two loaves of bread, of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour they are, baked with leaven, first-fruits to Yehovah. And besides the bread, you shall bring seven lambs a year old, perfect ones, and one young bull and two rams. They are an ascending offering to Yehovah, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet fragrance to Yehovah. And you shall offer one male goat as a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old, as a slaughter of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them, besides the bread of the first-fruits, as a wave offering before Yehovah, besides the two lambs. They are set-apart to Yehovah for the priest. And on this same day you shall proclaim a set-apart gathering for yourselves, you do no servile work on it – a law forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. (Lev 23:15-22)
From the above verses in Lev 23:15-22, we find that the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is not historically associated with any particular event. The truth of the matter is that the Torah makes no direct connection between Chag Shavuot and the Sinai revelation. However, in the Rabbinic tradition the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is known as the time of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
We should also notice that the Torah does not mention that the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is a celebration of giving the Torah at Mount Sinai in contrast with the Festival of the Unleavened Breads (Chag haMatsot) and the Festival of the Booths (Chag Sukkot). The Torah makes no connection with any particular event of the exodus of Israel from Egypt, yet as we will see in this study, Chag Shavuot is indeed connected to the giving of the Covenant (the Ten Commandments) at Mount Sinai.
For more understanding of the real location of Mount Sinai, refer to the article “Where is the real Mount Sinai?“
As already said, in the Rabbinic tradition the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is known as the time of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
The law of the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, follows right after the laws of the Festival of the Unleavened Breads, haMatzot, and the First-fruits, haBikkurim, to show us the close connection between them.
Seven complete Shabbats (that is seven whole weeks), or forty-nine days, are to be reckoned from the day of the offering of the omer of barley on the Day of the First-fruits (haBikkurim), and then on the fiftieth day there is another day of first-fruits which is also called in Num 28:26 by the same name—the Day of the First-fruits (haBikkurim).
This day of YHVH is called the Festival of Weeks or Chag Shavuot (Exo 34:22, Deu 16:10). From this reckoning of time the festival has received its name , “Chag Shavuot” (weeks in Hebrew).
The fifty days of counting the omer of barley represent the period during which the children of Israel were led out of Egypt by the mighty hand of Elohim until they had reached His mountain — Sinai. The tradition says that the children of Israel so eagerly were counting the days and the weeks from their departure from Egypt until they arrived to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, that YHVH instituted the Festival of Weeks (Chag Shavuot).
In Exo 23:14-16 we find not only a close connection between these two festivals, but also a connection with another festival of YHVH in the autumn — the Festival of the Booths, Chag Sukkot. We read,
Three times in the year you are to celebrate a festival to Me: Guard the Festival of Unleavened Breads. Seven days you eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Aviv – for in it you came out of Egypt – and do not appear before Me empty-handed. And the Festival of the Harvest, the first-fruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Festival of the Ingathering at the outgoing of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field. (Exo 23:14-16)
We should note here that three times in the year the set-apart people were called for gathering to celebrate a festival to YHVH.
The Hebrew word for “festival” is chag, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a set-apart convocation. These three pilgrimages are: the Festival of Unleavened Breads (Chag haMatzot) within which the day of the First-fruits (haBikkurim) is also celebrated, the Festival of Harvest of the first-fruits or the Festival of Weeks (Chag Shavuot), and the Festival of the Ingathering or the Festival of Booths (Chag Sukkot) of the fruit of our labor.
On the day of Chag Shavuot, Israel was to offer a new offering to YHVH made of the fruit of the new harvest (Lev 26:10). His people were to bring from their dwellings two loaves of leavened bread from the wheat-harvest, made of fine flour, as a wave-offering of the first-fruits to the Creator Yehovah (Exo 34:22).
We should also note that unlike in the Festival of Unleavened Bread when only unleavened bread was to be eaten for seven days and in the First-fruits when the first-fruits of barley was waved before YHVH, here on the fiftieth day of reckoning two loaves of leavened bread were to be waved before YHVH by the priest. The priest was to wave also one male goat as a sin offering, and two male lambs of peace offerings.
Now, we may ask the question as to why Israel was commanded to bring a sin offering and a peace offering to YHVH on this particular day of the year along with the first-fruits of the harvest?
Again, we should admit that it is very unusual to see an offering for sin for a festival of first-fruits of the harvest — Chag Shavuot. In other words, why was the need for sin and peace offerings on this solemn day in the history of Israel when the people gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the giving of Torah to Israel? What sin could they have possibly done that would require a sin offering?
The present author suggests that while in Egypt the children of Israel did not live according to the Will of YHVH, they forgot the Elohim of the fore-fathers, and mingled in the paganism of Egypt. The Mighty One, YHVH Tsevaot, of Israel resolved to pour out His wrath on them to complete His displeasure against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.
But where do we find this, because the Torah says nothing about the life if the twelve tribes in Egypt and the falling into idolatry. We find this in Eze 20:5-8.
Thus, said the Master Yehovah, “On the day when I chose Israel and lifted My hand in an oath to the seed of the house of Ya’akov, and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I lifted My hand in an oath to them, saying, ‘I am Yehovah your Elohim.’ On that day, I lifted My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, flowing with milk and honey, the splendor of all lands. And I said to them, ‘Each one of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt! I am Yehovah your Elohim.’ But they rebelled against Me, and would not obey Me. All of them did not throw away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So, I resolved to pour out My wrath on them to complete My displeasure against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. (Eze 20:5-8)
Therefore, we see that Israel was rebellious and disobedient over those years in Egypt. From the account in Ezekiel we understand that YHVH made Himself known to them; He took a solemn oath to take them out the land of slavery and bring them in the Promised Land; and He warned them to throw away the abomination and end the defilement with the idols of Egypt.
But, the children of Israel did not listen to the Elohim of their fathers and rebelled against Him. This direct disobedience brought the wrath of Elohim and ultimately the slavery upon them. We should see that the wrath of Elohim was not just a punishment, which the children of Israel well deserved, but it was also meant to serve as a prevention of a further assimilation. Because if the punishment had not followed, Israel would have fallen in complete idolatry from which there would be no return.
And to make the things even worse, not all Israelites were willing to leave Egypt when the time to leave the foreign land came. But for more insight on whether all Israel had left Egypt, the reader is encouraged to read the article “Will All Israel Return?“
As to why Israel was commanded to bring a sin offering and a peace offering to YHVH on Chag Shavuot and how this relates to the rebellion in Egypt, the present author also recommends that the reader refer to chapters The Beginning of Months and The First Year at Mount Sinai of his book The Reckoning of Time.
In these chapters, he not only makes clear the validity that the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, is the anniversary of the proclamation of the Covenant of YHVH with His people at Mount Sinai, but also provides more information as to what actually happened during the three days of darkness of the ninth plague in Egypt.
And indeed, the revelation at Sinai did occur towards the beginning of the third month of the year and the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot. As we know, Chag Shavuot always occurs in the beginning of the third month.
At Mount Sinai, no longer is YHVH simply the Sovereign One or the Creator of the universe. He is specifically identified as the Elohim of Israel thus fulfilling the promise given to Israel in Exo 6:7. This title clearly shows the nature of the Covenant that had been entered into: YHVH bound Himself to the children of Israel, and the children of Israel to YHVH. Thus, they became bond servants to YHVH, their children, and their children’s’ children from that day on. On that day Israel became a nation.
But becoming bond servants to YHVH came with a lot of responsibility and accountability. To become servants of YHVH and a nation of priests, He would not have led His people out of Egypt to bring them at the mountain to enter into the Covenant promised to Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov just like that.
Much more was required from His people to enter in the Covenant of YHVH; much more was required then and much more is required now. YHVH is loving and forgiving, but He is also just. Justice must be served, because there is no love without justice. In order to lead His people to the Covenant, prerequisites must have been met first.
The assimilation was halted, the rebellion inhibited, and the rebels punished right there in Egypt. Menachem Mendel Schneerson (commonly referred to as The Rebbe) wrote:
This duality defines the Jew’s attitude toward galut (exile). On the one hand, we know that no matter how hospitable our host-country may be, and no matter how we may flourish, materially and spiritually, on foreign soil, galut is a prison in that it dims our spiritual vision, hinders our national mission and compromises our connection with G-d. For only as a nation dwelling on our land with the Holy Temple as the Divine abode in our midst can we perceive the Divine presence in the world, fully realize our role as “a light unto the nations,” and fully implement all the mitzvot of the Torah-the lifeblood of our relationship with G-d.
But we also know that we are in galut for a purpose. We know that we have been dispersed throughout the world in order to reach and influence the whole of humanity. We know that it is only through the wanderings and tribulations of galut that we access and redeem the “sparks of holiness”, the pinpoints of Divine potential which lie scattered in the most forsaken corners of the globe.
The Rebbe further expounds,
So Galut is an achuzah in both senses of the word: a “holding” to develop and a “holding pen” we must perpetually seek to escape. Indeed, it can only be the one if it is also the other. If we relate to galut solely as a prison, we will fail to properly utilize the tremendous opportunities it holds. But if we grow comfortable in this alien environment, we risk becoming part of it; and if we become part of the galut reality, G-d forbid, we could no more succeed in our efforts to develop and elevate it than the person who tries to lift himself up by pulling upwards on the hairs atop his own head.
In the Passover Haggadah we say: “If G-d had not taken our forefathers out of Egypt, we, our children, and our children’s children, would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt…” Our sages explain that the Children of Israel had become so entrenched in the paganism and depravity of Egypt, that the Exodus came at the very last possible moment, as they approached the very brink of total indistinguishability from the Egyptians. Had they remained slaves in Egypt a moment longer, there would have been no “Children of Israel” to redeem. (Rebbe’s Haggadah)
As studied in Chapter The Beginning of Months, (it is worth reiterating it here for the purpose of connecting the ninth plague in Egypt with the Festival of Shavuot) we come to the understanding as to why the Covenant between YHVH and Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’akov, in which YHVH made the unconditional promise to give the land as a gift to their children, was Royal Grant Treaty, but the Covenant between YHVH and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai, in which Israel had and still has the full responsibility of the conditional Covenant, was the Suzerain-Vassal Treaty.
In Time of Reckoning Ministry, we have the reason to believe that if the Israelites had been obedient to YHVH as the fore-fathers were, there would have been no need for a conditional covenant. The covenantal promise to Avraham would have been extended to their descendants just like the Covenant was extended to Yitschak and Ya’akov. But because obedience was required from Israel to stay in the Royal Grant Treaty, which they lacked in Egypt, they were first disciplined and then brought under the conditional covenant of Chag Shavuot at Mount Sinai.
Therefore, we see that the only possible reason why the sin-offering was required for the Festival of Weeks, Chag Shavuot, and it was required for reason, was because of the sin in Egypt.
The main purpose of the sin-offering was to evoke the consciousness of sin on the part of Israel. It was not sufficient on this day to bring the first-fruits to YHVH, as if nothing had happened in Egypt and thank the Creator for the blessing of harvest. But through the sin offering the children of Israel are reminded not to forget the rebellion of the fathers in Egypt.
While the purpose of the sin-offering is to evoke the consciousness of sin, through the peace-offering we are called to enter into peace with YHVH, for YHVH is forgiving. Unfortunately, today this meaning of Chag Shavuot has been lost for us and the festival has lost its original significance.
For the sake of this inward connection, namely the rebellion of the fathers in Egypt, the laws of the wave-sheaf on haBikkurim and wave-loaves on Chag Shavuot, both days of the First-fruits, are bound together into one whole concept of an internal unity of the appointed times, but also an internal unity of the nation of Israel with YHVH.
How this unity holds in place, we will study in the next article—the Festival of Weeks and the Messiah.
This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.