Shavuot and Shofar
Shavuot and Shofar
Shavuot completes the cycle of the 3-Pilgrammage Festivals (Succot and Pesach are the others). (Chagigah 7a). All pilgrimage festivals are on the same footing as each other. (Sabbath 131a)
The Feast of Weeks is called Pentecost or Assembly. (Talmud – Mas. Rosh HaShana 6b; Talmud – Mas. Mo’ed Katan 20a)
The Special Preparations for This Holiday
The special preparations for this holiday falling 7-weeks after Passover (Lev 23:17), are the two leavened loaves of bread (Shabbath 131a). Yet their preparation does not override the Sabbath ( Beitzah 20b)
There were special sacrifices for the Feast of Weeks:
• A second young bullock thou shalt take for a sin-offering:1 Now, if this comes to teach that there are two [sacrifices], surely it has already been said, (Zevachim 89b)
• The two lambs offered at the Feast of Weeks; cf. Lev. XXIII, 19. These lambs are also permissible as well as the two loaves mentioned previously. (Menachot 13b)
• The thank-offering consisted of an animal-offering and a bread-offering of forty cakes, ten cakes of each of the four different kinds specified; v. Lev. VII, 12, 13. The entire thank-offering had to be consumed on the same day of offering until midnight.
• A special waving peace-offering offered on the Feast of Weeks and accompanied by a bread-offering of two loaves (Lev. 23:17-19. This peace-offering and the loaves had to be eaten on the same day of offering. (Menachot 15a)
Two loaves of leavened bread were offered on Shavuoth, as a communal offering. The unground wheat was first rubbed by the priests…
The two loaves were kneaded and baked separately. They were rectangular in shape, measuring seven handbreadths long and four wide. The loaves were fashioned so that there would be a hornlike protrusion on each of the four corners.
The priests would carry the two loaves and the other offerings up to the altar. They would be accompanied by Levites blasting trumpets and playing flutes.
• The first fruits according to R. Eliezer b. Jacob. first fruits require waving;
• Twin Loaves Waves with Trumpets, Flute and Song
o When the time for the wine libation arrived and the twin loaves were offered, the Levite choir began its music-the singers, trumpeters and musicians. Indeed, the special holiday commandment for this day calls for the blowing of trumpets: “And on the days of your joy, and on your festivals… you shall sound off with trumpets” (Numbers 10:10). Additionally, the festival of Shavuot is included as one of the 12 days of the year in which the flute is played before the altar, even if it falls out on the Sabbath (Maimonides, Laws of Temple Vessels 3:2,5,6).
After the destruction of the Holy Temple, the Rabbi’s decreed that, in lieu of the sacrifices, the Hallel (Ps 113-118) be individually prayed. (Arachin 10a)
Arakhin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three states that the Priests sounded the shofar never less than twenty-one blasts in the sanctuary and never more than forty-eight.
In addition, the shofar sounded during the twin loaves wave offering special for Shavuot. In addition, the special holiday commandment for this day called for the blowing of trumpets: “And on the days of your joy, and on your festivals… you shall sound off with trumpets” (Numbers 10:10).
The Horns of the Altar
Horns on an altar are ancient in the Middle East. Obbink, however, finds Israelite altars unique. Abraham calls his altar Jahwe jir’e (Gen. 22) ; Jacob calls his altar El ‘elohe yisra’el (Gen. 33 20), and Moses calls his, Jahwe nissi (Ex. 17). These are not names for altars. Rather, they are for sanctuaries. Gen. 28 is tells that Jacob took the stone that he had put for his pillow and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on the top of it: similarly Gen. 35 . In ancient Israel they were called altars when they were attached to the altar. In both cases the altar is a bethel, and the bethel is an altar. Such was the ancient Semitic tradition. (H. Th. Obbink, The Horns of the Altar in the Semitic World, Especially in Jahwis, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Mar., 1937), pp. 43-49. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3259629. Accessed: 05/29/2011
Initially using the Midrash Tadshe (ch. XI) (The Midrash Tadshe focuses on symbols and it plays much on groups of numbers. Section 2 contains a symbolization of the Tabernacle, the central idea of the midrash is the theory of three worlds—earth, man, and the Tabernacle), Samuel Belkin describes the rationale behind the use of the horns combined with the altar. Belkin explores further by using translations to the Greek texts of Philo, to the Armenian translation of Philo’s Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus, to the Mishnah, to the Talmud and Midrash, to Midrash Psalms and to the Mekilta (midrash to Exodus extending Jewish Law). He finds that these horns are of clean animals, whether these are brought as sacrifices or not, have horns and cleft hoofs. Once again, why did the Holy One, blessed be He, decree that horns be made for the altar? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, sought to teach us, that if we offered sacrifices to Him in righteousness, He would repel, destroy and subject their enemies and would not permit them to harm them (the Israelites). For it is written: ‘And all the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up’ (Ps. 75: II). But, if not, (i.e., should the Israelites become iniquitous), He would harass and repel them from before Him, as it is written: ‘And I will make your cities a waste, (and will bring your sanctuaries unto desolation), and I will not smell the savor of your sweet odors’ (Lev. 26: 31) ; and it is also said; ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me’ ” (Isa. : II).
Belkin claims that Philo finds the Tadshe to be a Hellenistic Midrash derived from or based upon the main structure of Philo.
Accordingly, those which are to be offered as sacrifices are the following three (kinds): the sheep, the ox, and the goat.
But besides these there are seven other (kinds permitted) for food: gazelle, deer, wild goat, buffalo, white-rumped antelope, oryx, and giraffe; each of these has horns. For He wishes to specify those (animals to be used) for food, for even though they are not to be offered as sacrifices, still they are similar to those which are to be sacrificed.
Secondly, the horns (of the altar) incline and face toward the four sides of the world, toward the east, toward the west toward the south, and toward the Dipper, for it is proper that those who are in all parts (of the world) should all bring their first-fruits and new (offerings) to this one altar, and sacrifice victims to God, the Father of the world. In the third place, (this is said) symbolically, for in place of defensive weapons He has given a crop of horns to animals which grow horns. Just as the (animals) to be sacri¬ficed, (namely) the ram, the ox, and the goat, repel their enemies with their horns, so also did He wish to rebuke the impious who presume to offer sacrifices, by teaching that the divine Logos opposes and repels the enemies of truth, goring every soul as if with horns, and showing up in their nakedness its unclean and unworthy deeds, which a little while before it had been concealing. For these reasons the horns are not to be placed upon (the altar) from outside, but by His command are to be united to the altar itself to extend it, since sacrificial animals have their horns growing out of themselves.”
Samuel Belkin, Some Obscure Traditions Mutually Clarified in Philo and Rabbinic Literature, Source: The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 57, The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Volume of the Jewish Quarterly Review (1967), pp. 80-103. University of Pennsylvania Press, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1453486. Accessed: 05/29/2011