Parshat Emor -
The Dual Nature of the Chagim in Emor

(To prepare for this shiur,
see the questions for self study.)

What is a "moed?" To most of us, the Hebrew word "moed" implies a holiday [i.e. a "yom-tov"]; a more precise English translation would be a 'fixed' [or 'appointed'] time.

So why doesn't Parshat Emor use the Hebrew word "chag" [holiday] or "zman" [a set time] in its description of the holidays? Why is specifically the word Moed emphasized in Vayikra chapter 23? [Note both the header and footer of this unit in 23:1-4 and 23:44.]

Furthermore, is it just by chance that the same Hebrew word "moed" is used in the phrase Ohel Moed that describes the Mishkan?

In this week's shiur, we attempt to explain the thematic importance of Sefer Vayikra's description of the Moadim.

Parshat Emor is famous for its lengthy presentation of the "chagim" (the Jewish holidays - see Vayikra chapter 23). However, these very same holidays are also described in the other books of Chumash as well:

(See Board #1.) At first glance this 'multiple presentation' of the chagim in four different books of the Chumash appears to be superfluous. After all, would it not have been more logical for the Torah to present all of the laws concerning the chagim together in one parsha and in one Sefer?!

To explain the reason for this multiple presentation, the following shiur begins with a quick analysis of the four above mentioned parshiot in order to determine what is unique about each presentation. Then we will focus more specifically on the 'double' nature of the chagim as they are presented in Parshat Emor and on the deeper meaning of the word "moed."

Two Groups of Chagim
Before we begin, it is important to note that in Chumash we find two distinct 'sets' of chagim:

When the chagim are first presented in Sefer Shmot and later on in Sefer Devarim, we find only the Shalosh Regalim (A). In contrast, their presentation in Sefer Vayikra and Sefer Bamidbar includes both the Shalosh Regalim (A) and the Tishrei holidays (B). (See Board #2.)

As the Shalosh Regalim appear to be the most fundamental unit, we begin our discussion with a quick analysis of their first mention in Parshat Mishpatim:

"Three times a year celebrate to Me. Keep Chag HaMatzot, eat matzah... at the appointed time in the spring (when you went out of Egypt)... and a Chag Katzir [a grain harvest holiday] for the first fruits of what you have sown in your field, and a Chag Ha'Asif [a fruit gathering holiday] at the conclusion of the [agricultural] year..." (see Shmot 23:14-17)
Note how these three holidays are described only by the agricultural time of year in which they are celebrated (without any mention of the specific lunar month): Note as well (in 23:17) that the primary mitzvah associated with each of these three holidays is "aliyah l'regel" - to be seen by God [by visiting Him at the Mishkan/Mikdash]. (See Board #3.)

In other words, the Torah first presents the Shalosh Regalim using a solar calendar rather than a lunar one and requires that we visit Him at these three times of the year. Before we explain why, a quick preface concerning the Biblical calendar.

The Bible's Double Calendar
In Chumash, we find the use of both a solar and a lunar calendar. The solar calendar is based on the 365 day cycle of the solar year - corresponding to the four seasons of the agricultural year ("t'kufot ha'shanah"), i.e the spring and fall equinox and the winter and summer solstice.

The lunar calendar is based on the monthly cycle of the moon (roughly 29.5 days). Therefore, some months are 29 days and some are 30 (determined by "bet-din," through "kiddush ha'chodesh").

These two calendars are correlated by the periodic addition of an 'extra' month (also determined by "bet-din," through "ibbur ha'shanah"). This assures that the first month of the lunar year will always correspond with the spring equinox (see Shmot 12:1-2).

Even though we commonly refer to the Jewish calendar as 'lunar,' we will see that Chumash employs both the lunar and solar calendars in its description of the chagim.

Agricultural Holidays
It is not coincidental the Torah chose the solar calendar in its presentation of the Shalosh Regalim. Clearly, the Torah's requires that we thank God during these three critical times of the agricultural year, i.e. when nature 'comes back to life' early in the spring (Chag HaMatzot), at the conclusion of the wheat harvest (Shavuot), and at the conclusion of the fruit harvest (Succot). Even though we are more familiar with the 'historical' reasons for these three holidays, Parshat Mishpatim prefers to present them solely from their agricultural perspective.

One could suggest a possible reason based on their parallel presentation in Parshat Re'ay (see Devarim 16:1-17!). As you read that chapter, note that once again:

(See Board #4.) [Note as well that here we are told where that mitzvah takes place, i.e. "ba'makom asher Yivchar Hashem l'shakeyn shmo sham" - at the site that God will choose to have His Name dwell there - see 16:2,6,11,15,16!]

However, Parshat Re'ay adds one very important mitzvah - that we must rejoice on these holidays - not only with our own family, but also with the less fortunate, such as the stranger, the orphan, the widow, etc. (see Devarim 16:11,14). In other words, God demands that when we celebrate and thank Him for the bounty of our harvest, we must be sure to include the less fortunate in our celebration. (See Board #5.) In this manner, the Shalosh Regalim fall under the category of laws pertaining to 'social justice' ["bein adam l'chaveiro"] and hence connect thematically with most all of the other mitzvot in Parshat Mishpatim! [Note especially 23:6-12; see also shiur on Mishpatim.]

In any case, the holidays in Parshat Mishpatim and Parshat Re'ay are presented in the context of a larger theme in each of those Parshiot and hence need not be considered as the Torah's primary presentation of the chagim.

[Note that the chagim in Re'ay are part of the more comprehensive topic of "ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem" in that Sedra. Note as well that the Shalosh Regalim are repeated in Parshat Ki-Tisa (see Shmot 34:18-26) when Moshe Rabbeinu receives the second Luchot. Once again, their presentation there is almost identical to their presentation in Parshat Mishpatim.]

In contrast to these parshiot, the descriptions of the chagim in Parshiot Emor (Vayikra 23) and Pinchas (Bamidbar 28-29) are different in several ways:

(See Board #6.) As we explained in last year's shiur on Parshat Pinchas, even though chapters 28-29 mention all of the chagim, they focus on one basic topic - i.e the details of the Korban Musaf for each holiday. In fact, this unit in Parshat Pinchas could actually be titled, "Korbanot HaT'midim v'haMusafim," for it details the korban Tamid and the korban Musaf that are offered throughout the course of the entire year, including Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh! (See Board #7.)

[Note that we read from this 'parsha' for maftir on every chag, and we quote its korban in every tefilat Musaf.]

Now, we are left with Parshat Emor (Vayikra 23:1-44), and sure enough, here we finally find a unique mitzvah for each holiday:

(See Board #8.) Before we take a closer look at the details of this unit, let's summarize what we have discussed thus far: Double Dating
Parshat Emor, like Pinchas, presents the chagim in order of their lunar dates (month/day). Nevertheless, Emor is different! As the following citations shows, when introducing the special mitzvah to be performed in the Mikdash on each of the Shalosh Regalim, the agricultural season (i.e. the solar date) is mentioned as well! (See Board #9.) In fact, look carefully and you'll notice that Parshat Emor presents the agricultural aspect of each of the Shalosh Regalim independently! (See Board #10.)

For example, the agricultural mitzvah to bring the korban ha'omer and the shtei ha'lechem is presented in a separate 'dibur' (see 23:9-22) that makes no mention at all of the lunar date! Similarly, the mitzvah of the arba minim in 23:39-41 is presented independently, after the mitzvah of Chag HaSuccot is first presented in 23:33-38. [To verify this, compare these two sections carefully!]

Why is the structure of Emor so complicated? Shouldn't the Torah employ one standard set of dates and explain all the mitzvot for each holiday together? As usual, to understand why, we must first take a closer look.

The Common Mitzvot
Even though Parshat Emor presents the special mitzvot of each holiday, it also presents some common mitzvot for all the holidays.

Review chapter 23 and note the pattern. Each holiday is:

To verify this, note the following psukim:

(See Board #11.) [Note that in regard to Shavuot (see 23:21) a lunar date and the phrase "v'hikravtem" are missing! See shiur on Shavuot.]

Therefore, in relation to the lunar date, Parshat Emor requires that on each holiday the nation gathers together ["mikra kodesh"], and refrains from physical labor ["kol mlechet avoda lo ta'asu"], while a special korban [the musaf offering] must be offered in the Bet HaMikdash ["v'hikravtem..." - as detailed in Parshat Pinchas].

However, within this same unit, we also found that the Shalosh Regalim were presented independently with a solar date, within the context of their agricultural mitzvot. If we take a closer look at those psukim, we'll also notice that in each instance the concept of a Shabbat or Shabbaton is mentioned in conjunction with the special agricultural mitzvah [i.e. omer, shtei ha'lechem, and arba minim] of each holiday .

Furthermore, we also find the use of the word Shabbaton in the presentation of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur as well! [See 23:24,32.]

Finally, note the detail of the mitzvot relating to Shabbaton always concludes with the phrase: "chukat olam l'doroteichem [b'chol moshvoteichem]" - see 23:14,21,31,41! (See Board #12.)

The following list summarizes this second pattern in which the word Shabbat or Shabbaton is mentioned in relation to each holiday:

Note also that within this parsha, the Shabbat/agricultural aspect is first introduced by a separate "dibur":
"And God spoke to Moshe saying... When you enter the land that I am giving you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the omer - the first sheaf of your harvest to God. This omer shall be waved in front of God... on the day after Shabbat the Kohen shall wave it...." (23:9-14)
The most striking example of this 'double pattern' is found in the psukim that describe Succot. Note how the Torah first introduces this holiday as a Mikra Kodesh by its lunar date:
"On the 15th day of the 7th month Chag Succot seven days: on the first day there shall be a Mikra Kodesh... and on the eighth day a Mikra Kodesh..." (23:35-36)
[As this is the last Moed, the next pasuk summarizes all of the chagim: "ayleh Moadei Hashem..." (23:37-38)].

Then, in a very abrupt fashion, after summarizing the moadim, the Torah returns to Succot again, but now calls it a Shabbaton:

" 'Ach' on the 15th day of the seventh month, when you gather the harvest of your field, you shall celebrate for seven days, on the first day - a Shabbaton, and on the eighth day - a Shabbaton." (23:39)

A Double 'Header'
The introductory psukim of this unit may allude to the double nature of this presentation. Note how the opening psukim of chapter 23 appear to contradict each other:

"And God told Moshe, tell Bnei Yisrael... these are the Moadei Hashem (fixed times), which you shall call Mikra'ei Kodesh (a sacred gathering) - these are the Moadim." (23:1-2)

"Six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be a Shabbat Shabbaton 'Mikra Kodesh'..." (23:3)

"These are the 'Moadei Hashem'...: On the 14th day of the first month - Pesach... On the 15th day of the first month - Chag HaMatzot..." (23:4-6)

Should Shabbat be considered one of the Moadim? If so, why does pasuk 4 repeat the header "ayleh moadei Hashem?" If not, why is Shabbat mentioned at all in the first three psukim?

Furthermore, there appear to be two types of 'mikraei kodesh' in Parshat Emor:

This distinction, and the repetition of the header "ayleh moadei Hashem" in 23:4, indicate that the first three psukim could be considered a 'double' header: i.e., Moadim and Shabbatonim. (See Board #13.)

As the unit progresses, this 'double header' reflects the double presentation of chagim in this entire unit, as discussed above. In regard to the shalosh regalim, the Shabbaton aspect is presented separately. In regard to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the Shabbaton aspect is included in the 'lunar' Mikra Kodesh presentation. [With regard to the agricultural nature of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, see TSC shiur on Rosh HaShanah.]

What is the meaning of the double nature of this presentation? Why does Parshat Emor relate to both the lunar and solar calendars? One could suggest the following explanation.

The Agricultural Aspect
As mentioned above, Parshat Emor details a special agricultural related mitzvah for each of the shalosh r'galim:

These mitzvot relate directly to the agricultural seasons in Eretz Yisrael in which these holidays fall. In the spring, barley is the first grain crop to become ripe. During the next seven weeks, the wheat crop ripens and is harvested. As this is the only time of the year when wheat grows in Eretz Yisrael, these seven weeks are indeed a critical time, for the grain that will be consumed during the entire year is harvested during this very short time period.

Similarly, the Arba Minim, which are brought to the Mikdash on Succot, also relate to the agricultural importance of the fruit harvest ("pri eytz hadar v'kapot t'marim") at this time of the year, and the need for water in the forthcoming rainy season ("arvei nachal").

Therefore, specifically when the Torah relates to these agricultural mitzvot, these holidays are referred to as Shabbatonim for "shabbat" relates to the days of the week, and thus, to the cycle of nature caused by the sun, as well as the agricultural seasons of the year.

As these holidays are celebrated during the most critical times of the agricultural year, the Torah commands us to gather at this time of the year in the Bet HaMikdash and offer special korbanot from our harvest. Instead of relating these phenomena of nature to a pantheon of gods, as the Canaanite people did, Am Yisrael must recognize that it is God's hand behind nature and therefore, we must thank Him for our harvest.

[This challenge - to find God while working and living within the framework of nature - is reflected in the blessing we make over bread: "ha'motzi lechem min ha'aretz." Even though we perform 99% of work in the process of making bread (e.g. sowing, reaping, winnowing, grinding, kneading, baking, etc.), we thank God as though He had given us bread directly from the ground!]

The Historical Holidays
Even though the agricultural calendar alone provides sufficient reason to celebrate these holidays, the Torah finds historical significance in these seasonal holidays as well.

The spring commemorates our redemption from Egypt. The grain harvest coincides with the time of Matan Torah. During the fruit harvest we recall our supernatural existence in the desert under the "annanei kavod" (clouds of God's glory) in the desert.

Just as the Torah employs the solar date of the chagim in relation to the agricultural mitzvot, the Torah also employs the lunar date of these chagim in relation to their historical significance. For example, when describing Chag HaMatzot which commemorates the historical event of Yetziat Mitzraim, the lunar date of the 15th day of the first month is used (23:6). Similarly, when the Torah refers to Succot as a Mikra Kodesh, it employs solely the lunar date and emphasizes the mitzvah of sitting in the succah, in commemoration of our dwelling in succot during our journey through the desert (see 23:34-35,43).

One could suggest that specifically the lunar calendar is used in relation to the historical aspect, for we count the months in commemoration of our Exodus from Egypt, the most momentous event in our national history:

"Ha'chodesh ha'zeh lachem rosh chodashim - this month (in which you are leaving Egypt) will be for you the first month..." (see Shmot 12:1-3)

Redemption in the Spring
From the repeated emphasis in Chumash that we celebrate our redemption from Egypt in the early spring ("chodesh ha'aviv" - see Shmot 13:2-4 and Devarim 16:1-2), it would appear that it was not incidental that the Exodus took place at that time. Rather, God desired that our national birth take place at the same time of year when the growth cycle of nature recommences. [For a similar reason, it would appear that God desired that Bnei Yisrael enter the Promised Land in the first month of the spring (see Yehoshua 4:19 and 5:10).]

One could suggest that the celebration of our national redemption specifically in the spring emphasizes its proper meaning. Despite its importance, our freedom attained at Yetziat Mitzraim should be understood as only the initial stage of our national spiritual 'growth,' just as the spring marks only the initial stage in the growth process of nature! Just as the blossoming of nature in the spring leads to the grain harvest in the early summer and fruit harvest in the late summer, so too our national freedom must lead to the achievement of higher goals in our national history.

Thus, counting seven weeks from Chag HaMatzot until Chag HaShavuot (s'firat ha'omer) emphasizes that Shavuot (commemorating the giving of the Torah) should be considered the culmination of the process that began at Yetziat Mitzrayim, just as the grain harvest is the culmination of its growth process that began in the spring.

[One would expect that this historical aspect of Shavuot, i.e. Matan Torah, should also be mentioned in Parshat Emor. For some reason, it is not. We will deal with this issue, im yirtzeh Hashem, in our shiur on Shavuot.]

By combining the two calendars, the Torah teaches us that during the critical times of the agricultural year we must not only thank God for His providence over nature but we must also thank Him for His providence over our history. In a polytheistic society, these various attributes were divided among many gods. In an atheistic society, man fails to see God in either. The double nature of the chagim emphasizes this tenet that God is not only the Force behind nature, but He also guides the history of nations.

Man must recognize God's providence in all realms of his daily life; by recognizing His hand in both the unfolding of our national history and through perceiving His greatness in the creation of nature.

Kedushat Zman
In conclusion, we can now return to our original question, i.e. why does specifically Sefer Vayikra describe these holidays as Moadim?

The Hebrew word "moed" stems from the root "vav.ayin.daled" - to meet. [That's why a committee in Hebrew is a "vaad," and a conference is a "ve'iydah." See also Shmot 29:42-43 and Amos 3:3. Finally, note Breishit 1:14!]

The Mishkan is called an Ohel Moed - a tent of meeting - for in that tent Bnei Yisrael [symbolically] 'meet' God. In a similar manner, the Jewish holidays are called Moadim, for their primary purpose is that we set aside special times during the year to meet God. Clearly, in Parshat Emor, the Torah emphasizes the "bein adam la'makom" [between God and man] aspect of the holidays. Not only do we perform the mitzva of aliya l'regel, we also perform a wide range of special mitzvot that occupy our entire day during those holidays. [See Sefer Kuzari ma'amar r'vii in relation to the chagim!]

As we explained in last week's shiur, this is the essence of kedusha - the theme of Sefer Vayikra. We set aside special times and infuse them with special kedusha to come closer to Hashem. However, our experience during these holidays provides us with the spiritual strength to remain close to God during the remainder of the year.

Virtual ClassRoom enhancements by Reuven Weiser.

For Further Iyun
A. Why in Vayikra?
Why is this parsha that describes the special mitzvot of all the chagim located specifically in Sefer Vayikra?

Based on last week's shiur, we can suggest an answer. We explained that the second half of Vayikra 'translates' the concentrated level of the Sh'china dwelling in the Mishkan to norms of behavior in our daily life in the "aretz" (into the realms of kedushat ha'aretz, kedushat zman and kedushat makom). The special agricultural mitzvot of the chagim are a manifestation of how the kedusha of the Mishkan affects our daily life. By bringing these special korbanot from our harvest, the toils of our daily labor, to the Beit HaMikdash, we remind ourselves of God's Hand in nature and in the routine of our daily life.

B. Does the mitzvah of Succah relate to historical aspect (yetziat mitzraim) or to the agricultural aspect (temporary booths built by the farmers in the field collecting the harvest) - or to both?

C. Chagei Tishrei and Agriculture
We noted earlier that Parshat Emor also included chagei Tishrei, and each is referred to as a shabbaton, as well as a mikra kodesh.

As explained in our shiur on Rosh HaShanah, these three holidays, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Shmini Atzeret, relate to forthcoming year. A new agricultural year is about to begin, and we must recognize that its fate is not a function of chance or the whims of a pantheon of gods; rather it is a result of our acceptance of God's kingdom and the observance of His mitzvot.

[Note from Parshat Pinchas that these three chagim share a common and unique korban musaf! (1-1-7/1). Note also that Succot stands at the agricultural crossroads of last year's harvest and next year's rainy season. Thus, we say "Hallel" in thanksgiving for the previous year, and we say "Hoshanot" in anticipation of the forthcoming year.]

D. The sun, we explained, relates to the agricultural aspects of chagim, while the moon to its historical aspect.

E. Note the emphasis on the number 'seven' throughout this parsha. How and why does the number seven relate to the solar calendar, and the agricultural holidays? Relate your answer to the first perek of Sefer Breishit and shabbat!

F. Why are the mitzvot of aliyah l'regel emphasized in Sefer Shmot? A theme in the second half of Shmot is the function of the Mishkan as a perpetuation of Har Sinai. Aliyah l'regel, a national gathering at the Mishkan on the holidays, can re-enact certain aspects of Ma'amad Har Sinai.

G. Compare carefully 23:1-4 to Shmot 35:1-4 and notice the amazing parallel! How does this enhance your understanding of this parsha, shabbat and the Mishkan?

TSC Home