Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Shavuot: "Feast of Weeks" - Part I

Shavuot 5775

 "And you shall count for yourselves - from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the Omer-sheaf of the waving - seven Sabbaths, they shall be complete. Until the morrow after the seventh Sabbath you shall count, fifty days; and you shall bring near a new tribute-offering to Hashem. From your dwelling-places you shall bring two breads for waving, of two tenth-ephah, they shall be fine flour, they shall be baked leavened: firstfruits unto Hashem. 

And you shall bring near with the bread seven unblemished lambs of the first year, and one young bull, and two rams: they shall be for an elevation-offering to Hashem, and their tribute-offering, and their libations - a fire-offering, an expression of a desire to please Hashem. And you shall make one he-goat as a sin-offering, and two lambs of the first year as feast peace-offerings.

And the priest shall wave them along with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave-service before Hashem, along with the two Iambs: they shall by holy for Hashem, for the priest. And you shall proclaim on this same day, it shall be a holy proclaimed gathering for you, you shall do no laborious work; it is an eternal statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. 

And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not completely consume the edges of your field when you reap, and the gleanings of your harvest you shall not gather: for the poor and for the sojourner you shall leave them; I am Hashem your G-d."

-- Leviticus 23:15-22

Messianic Descriptions

First-fruits are brought only from seven kinds [for which the Land of Israel was renowned: wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, olive-oil and date-honey (Deuteronomy 8:8).

First-fruits are not to be brought before Shavuot… because of what is written in the Torah: "And the Feast of Harvest, the first-fruits of your labours which you sow in the field".

-- Mishna - Bikkurim 1:3

How were the first-fruits set aside? A man goes down into his field, he sees a fig that ripened, or a cluster of grapes that ripened, or a pomegranate that ripened, he ties a reed-rope around it and says: "let these be first-fruits". R. Shimon says. Notwithstanding this, he must again designate them as first-fruits after they have been plucked from the soil.

How were the first-fruits taken up [to Jerusalem]? All [the inhabitants of] the cities that constituted the ma'amad [district] assembled in the city of the ma'amad, and spent the night in its open place without entering any of the houses. Early in the morning the officer [head of the ma'amad] said, "Let us arise and go up to Zion, into the house of Hashem our G-d."

Those who lived near brought fresh figs and grapes, but those from a distance brought dried figs and raisins [for fresh fruit would rot on the way]. An ox with horns bedecked with gold and with an olive-crown on its head led the way. The flute was played before them until they were nigh to Jerusalem; and when they arrived close to Jerusalem they sent messengers in advance, and ornamentally arrayed their first-fruits. The governors and chiefs and treasurers [of the Temple] went out to meet them. According to the rank of the entrants they used to go forth. All the skilled artisans of Jerusalem would stand up before them and greet them, "Brethren, men of such and such a place, we are delighted to welcome you."

The flute was playing before them until they reached the Temple mount; and when they reached the Temple mount even King Agrippa would take the basket and place it on his shoulder and walk as far as the Temple court. At the approach to the court, the Levites would sing the song: "I will extol You, O Hashem, for You have raised me up, and have not permitted my enemies to rejoice over me" (Psalm 30:2).

The turtle-doves [tied to] the basket were offered up as elevation-offerings, but that which they held in their hands they presented to the priests.

While the basket was yet on his shoulder he would recite from [the words]: "I profess this day unto Hashem your G-d…", until the completion of the passage (Deuteronomy 26:3-10). R' Judah said: [He would recite] only until [he had reached] "A wandering Aramean was my father" (v.5). Having reached these words, he took the basket off his shoulder and held it by its edge; and the priest placed his hand beneath it and waved it, he [the Israelite] then recited from "A wandering Aramean…" until he completed the entire passage. He would then deposit the basket by the side of the altar, prostrate himself, and depart.

Originally all who knew how to recite would recite, while those unable to do so would repeat it [after the priests], but when they refrained from bringing [abashed at this pubic avowal of their ignorance in reading Hebrew], it was decided that both those who could and those who could not [recite] should repeat the words [to avoid embarrassing them].

The rich brought their first-fruits in baskets overlaid with silver or gold, while the poor used wicker-baskets of peeled willow-branches, and they used to give both the baskets and the first-fruits to the priest.

-- Mishna - Bikkurim 3:1-8

On the way [to the Temple in Jerusalem to bring the first-fruits], they would say, "I rejoiced when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of Hashem" (Psalm 122:1). Inside Jerusalem, they would say, "Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem" (ibid.2). On the Temple mount, they would say, "Praise God in His Sanctuary" (Psalm 150:1). In the Temple court, they would say, "Let every thing that has breath praise Hashem" (ibid.6).

-- Talmud Yerushalmi - Bikkurim 65c

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