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JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Unlike other Jewish holidays, the Torah does not specify a date for Shavuot; it is celebrated on the 50th day (seven weeks) after Passover. We moderns celebrate Shavuot on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan; in ancient times, when the first day of every month was declared only when the new moon was first seen, the holiday could have been celebrated on the fifth, sixth or seventh day of Sivan.
Equally strange, the actual date on which the Torah was given is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible! We know more or less when it was, but no exact date is given. This is true even though the dates of many other events, all surely of far lesser importance, are written explicitly in the Torah.
And while we consider the focus of Shavuot to be the giving of the Torah, it is never referred to as such in the Bible. The holiday has a few names, but none connected to its most important theme.
We don’t even know the exact place where God gave the Torah. At least for the past two millennia, it has been completely unknown and none of the three contenders we have for Mount Sinai is the right place. According to Jewish tradition, Mount Sinai was not a high mountain. Those who believe that it was one of the highest spots in the Sinai Peninsula, thinking that a tall mountain is closer to God, seem to have slightly pagan ideas.
So there are three mysteries: Why doesn’t Shavuot have a date of its own? Why is it not explicitly connected to the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Law? And why don’t we even know where the Torah was given? Commemorated by a holiday seemingly disconnected from the event, the Israelites received this most sacred text on a date and on a site that are only vaguely known to us.
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