Bamidbar – Shavuos 5778


The Midrash in Bamidbar notes that when the Jewish people received the Torah, the other nations were jealous. They asked Hashem, why are you showing favor to the Bnei Yisrael over any other nation? Hashem responded, bring me your ספר יוחסין, the records of your common ancestry, the likes of which the Jews have. That is why, after Moshe finished relating the Mitzvos to Bnai Yisrael, Hashem commanded him to count them.
The commentaries wonder why Chazal say הופיע מהר פארן when Bnei Yisrael received the Torah, Hashem appeared from Paran. What was He doing there? He was offering the Torah to the nations of the world; each one, after hearing what it entailed, rejected it. If so, how can the nations accuse Hashem of favoritism? Hashem offered it to them and they didn’t want it!
The simple answer is that after Hashem was כפה עליהם הר כגיגית, that Hashem forced Klal Yisrael, the other nations were wishing that Hashem would have done this to them.
However, this would not explain Hashem’s response. What does the counting and recording of Jewish genealogy, in Bamidbar, have to do with the giving of the Torah that happened long before? Since the the Torah was given, there was the sin of the calf, followed by the forgiveness and the building of the Mishkan. And where were the nations until then?
The Sefer Nivchar Hakesef explains that מעמד הר סיני was the אירוסין, the engagement so to speak, of Hashem and Klal Yisrael. The נישואין, the final wedding, took place at the assembly and inauguration of the Mishkan.
All the nations, when they were offered the Torah, refused it. They reasoned (and still believe to this day) that it is impossible to live by the Torah. There are too many restrictions, too many expectations, and no man can keep them all. At מעמד הר סיני the entire world watched and waited. What would happen? Would the Jews accept and fulfill the Torah? As of yet there was no jealousy. Why would one be jealous of a project doomed to failure?
Then the מעשה עגל happened, and the nations were proven right! The Jews could not keep the Torah laws!
Moshe returned to Hashem and succeeded in securing forgiveness. The nations were still not impressed; they still could not fathom the power of Teshuva. They still believed there was no hope for the nation silly enough to accept the Torah.
The counting of Bamibar is the last step before the assembly of the Mishkan. Now the Mishkan would be built and the Shechina of Hashem would rest on the Bnei Yisrael.
It is at this point that the nations become resentful. How can Hashem rest His Glory on a nation of sinners? They failed! Why do you, Hashem, treat them with such favor? Why are they worthy?
To this Hashem answers, show me your lineage. It is true, there are Jews who sinned, but they are part of one family. The Jews received the Torah כאיש אחד בלב אחד, with a complete unity, one family with a unified goal of serving Hashem. Although a single Jew may sin, as a part of a whole, the rest of the whole can lift him up. This is the importance of unity in accepting the Torah and the significance of the counting of the Bnei Yisrael.


יום טוב שני of Shavuos
Since Shavuos always occurs on the fiftieth day of the Omer, why is there a second day? The Rambam writes that it is in order not to differentiate between the Yomim Tovim. The Chasam Sofer deduces an interesting conclusion from this. Since the second day is not because of a doubt as to the status of the day, there are no allowances on the second day as there would be on the other Yomim Tovim.
Flowers and trees in Shul
The Rema discusses a Minhag to strew grass on the floor of the Shul on Shavuos. This is done as an allusion to Har Sinai, which was covered with vegetation. The Chiddushei HaRim write that one should use bulrushes, in commemoration of the day that Moshe was placed in the Nile, as it was also on Shavuos.
This Minhag was extended to include trees and flowers. The Magen Avraham writes that this is to remind us that the din on Shavuos is on the fruit of the trees, and to encourage us to daven. The Gra was opposed to the Minhag, as the non-Jews have a Minhag to place trees in their houses and places of worship. This would then only exclude the use of trees but not flowers and grass. The Maharsham and others disagree, and write that since there is religious reason for their trees, it is not a chok – and therefore, the Minhag is allowed to continue Minhag.
Other Minhagim include trees with a sweet scent, reminiscent of the spice fragrance that permeated the air after each one of the Ten Commandments.
The Mahram Ash (Zichron Yehdau Minhaga Shavuos) would crown the Sefer Torah with a floral wreath.
Milchigs on Shavuos
The Rema writes that it is a Minhag to eat dairy dishes on Shavuos. This is in order to remember the two loaves that were offered in the Beis HaMikdash with the Bikurim on Shavuos.
The Matie Moshe says that this is hinted to in the first letters of the words describing Shavuos. The Torah says, מנחה חדשה לה’ בשבועתיכם.
The Mishna Berura quotes another reason. After the Dibros, which included the entire Torah, it was impossible for Bnei Yisrael to eat meat, because they had not Shechted any animals. Therefore, they ate Milchigs.
There are a few different Minhagim as to when to eat the Milchigs. According to the Rema’s explanation, it should be eaten as a Seudah on the first night with meat and milk, as this would require two separate loaves to commemorate the two breads brought on Shavuos in the Beis HaMikdash Since as one may not eat the Milchig bread at the Fleishig meal, an extra loaf would be necessary. This practice would then take into consideration the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov, which on Shavuos as with the other Yomin Tovim was always fulfilled with Fleishigs.
Some do not wait until later, but eat the Fleishigs after a short break. Although this is usually questionable, as it necessitates unnecessary Brachos, the Minhag is to be lenient on Shavuos.
Others eat a little Milchigs for Kiddush, and then eat a regular meal.
There is a second reason to eat the Milchigs on the first night. The Mishnas Yaakov writes, that it is to show that it is a special meal eaten in celebration of completing the Mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer. If a regular meat meal would be eaten, then it would be perceived as just a regular Yom Tov meal. All the Minhagim are special!