"And you shall count for you from the morrow of the
festival... seven weeks shall they be" (Vayikro 23:15).
The Zohar writes: "Come and see: any person who does
not count this enumeration of seven complete weeks in order
to merit this purity, is not considered pure and cannot be
included in the category of the pure, and he is not worthy of
sharing any part in the Torah!"
How can we understand this? Torah study should always be
considered as new and fresh as if we just received it from
Mt. Sinai. Chazal state this as follows, in Kiddushin,
"Whoever teaches his friend's son Torah -- it is as if he
received it directly from Har Sinai."
When the Jews left Egypt they were commanded to keep days of
counting (Sefiroh) and preparation for kabolas
haTorah through purification, and so significant were
these that the Ramban considers them a continuation of
Pesach: "For the days counted in between are like chol
hamoed between the first and eighth day of Succos, with
the final day being Atzeres, which is Shavuos." If so
we too, in succeeding generations, must occupy ourselves with
those selfsame preparations in order to arrive at the Giving
of the Torah.
It follows, then, that the Days of Counting which are a
preparation for receiving the Torah are like the days of
Elul, which are the necessary forerunner for the Days of
Judgment, and during these days we must be preoccupied with
the 48 things necessary for acquiring Torah. Indeed, these
days have aspects of judgment. Our poskim designated
them as days of reckoning and judgment, for the disciples of
R' Akiva died during this period and many other harsh decrees
and troubles befell us during these intermediary days. But in
reality, there is a deeper principle involved as well.
We find in Chok Yaakov (siman 493) in the name of
Shibbolei Haleket, brought also by R' Yeruchom from
Maseches Eduyos (chap. 4): Said R' Yochonon ben Nuri:
the judgment of the wicked in Gehennom lasts from
Pesach until Atzeres.
It is necessary to explain why these days were specifically
established as days of accounting and judgment.
It appears that the root of the matter rests in the festival
of Shavuos. On this day, Creation was finally completed, as
is written in Bereishis, "`Yom Hashishi': for all
of Creation was suspended [in uncertainty] until the sixth
day of Sivan." The day when Creation was completed must
necessarily be a day of judgment. For if on Rosh Hashonoh,
the day when man was created, we say: "This the day of the
commencement of Your deeds" and "Today is the birth-day of
the world (haras olom)," then certainly, the day of the
receiving of the Torah, when the work of creation was
completed and reinforced, must also be one of judgment.
The Sheloh Hakodosh states in maseches Shavuos: "For
this holy day is a day of judgment. And know that just as on
Rosh Hashonoh Hashem desires to review and examine the
actions of mankind, for it is the day of the primary Creation
and renewal of the world, as R' Eliezer maintains that the
world was created in Tishrei, thus did He deem that on the
day of the Giving of the Torah, which also indicates the
renewal of the world, He surveys and reviews all the doings
of the world.
"This day can be considered as a veritable day of Creation
and renewal of the world. As Rashi notes on the words,
"Yom Hashishi: [the Torah is referring to] the sixth of
Sivan for on this day Israel received the Torah and the
entire primeval Creation was reinforced, and it is considered
as if the world was created right now."
Rosh Hashonoh is the birth-day of the world, upon which man
is demanded to make an accounting for himself to see if he
fulfilled his mission in rectifying the world, as is brought
in Sanhedrin 37: "Every single person is obliged to
say: for me was the world created." And Rashi writes: "In
other words, if I am as important as an entire world, how can
I sin and be removed from the world for just one sin?" The
feeling that the whole world was created only for him saddles
a person with a tremendous sense of responsibility while
investing him with strength and fortitude to overcome all
kinds of tests. Therefore, on the day of the world's renewal,
man is taken to task and examined to see to what extent he
internalizes the feeling that the world was really created
for his sake.
Thus is it with the final completion of the world, which took
place at the Giving of the Torah, as is written, "Were it not
for My covenant by day and by night, I would not have
established the laws of Heaven and earth." Every single
person is obligated to declare and feel that the entire Torah
was given for his sake and that he is required to appreciate
it day and night in order to receive it completely and
properly. One must not think that others can receive and
study Torah in his stead, since it was given for his sake!
Midrash Lekach Tov explains the verse, "I am Hashem
your G-d" as follows: "Why were the Ten Commandments stated
in the singular form? To teach you that every individual Jew
must say: The Ten Commandments were given for my sake, and I
must uphold them. Let him not say: Others can keep the
If so, this day is one of judgment for bitul Torah.
And the significance of this day spreads itself out to all
the days between Pesach and Shavuos, rendering them equally
important on the day of matan Torah, for on this day
the entire Creation reached its completion by fulfilling its
The whole period is the birth of the world; it was programmed
into the root of the world that at this time the world would
be judged and accounted for. Thus does this period of
judgment also apply to sinners, who are judged between Pesach
and Shavuos. Now we understand that it is also conducive to
punishment and harsh judgment, as with the deaths of R'
Akiva's disciples and other harsh decrees which our people
have suffered as a result of laxity in Torah.
If a special day of judgment was established for slack in
Torah, then we are obligated to be fearful, and to cherish
every moment of Torah study lest it not be fully utilized.
Anyone who is capable of studying Torah and does not do so,
is considered to have abused the Torah, as it says, "For he
abused the word of Hashem." Chazal analyzed the propensity of
a person to slack off in his Torah study as an indication
that he does not sufficiently cherish it and does not
inherently feel and acknowledge that it is "your life and the
length of your days." This is an aspect of abuse. Therefore,
the day of Shavuos is not only a day of rejoicing in the
Torah but also one of trembling.
This is why Dovid Hamelech said, "And rejoice amidst