By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
There is considerable meaning and moral insight in the very name of the Festival of “Shavuot” – the Feast of “Weeks” (beyond the mere timing of Shavuot relative to Passover).
Days, months, and years are measures of time based in astronomical reality. The Earth takes 24 hours (one day) to rotate. The moon takes a month to revolve around the Earth (hence the term “month”). The Earth takes 365 days to orbit the sun. Dividing time into weeks, however, reflects no natural phenomenon. It is a structuring of human activity based entirely on religious principle: the concept of the “week” exists as a consequence of the Sabbath… a period of principled rest and renewal one day in seven.
Years vary in length: 365 or 366 days on the Gregorian calendar; 353, 354, 355, 383, 384, or 385 days on the Hebrew calendar! Months vary in length, as well. While each day is 24 hours long, the division of daylight and night hours changes constantly.
Reflecting their basis in religious principle, weeks are non-negotiable and unchanging. Eternal.
Like “weeks” themselves, Shavuot – the “Festival of Weeks” – teaches us to transcend our physical nature, to root our conduct in religious principle… to embrace that which is Eternal as non-negotiable.
We commemorate God’s gift of the Torah… by celebrating “Weeks.”