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Holiday Central > Shavuot > The Number Six
Shavuot and the Number Six
By: Daniel Feldman, Contributor
Click Here for More Holiday Articles

Shavuot occurs on the sixth day of the month of Sivan. Most of us are quite aware of the importance of the number seven in Judaism. But, the number six is an important number as well. If the number seven represents a sense of completion or “fullness” as indicated by the similarities of the word “Sheva” (meaning “seven”, in Hebrew) with “save’a” (meaning “satisfaction” or “fullness”), then the number six is a “lead-in” to this process. It is the “last step” before “closure”. The final step or activity is often the most important one, for it is the “highlight” or “summary” of all the previous steps.

The importance of the number six is alluded in the discussion of creation (Breishit-Genesis). At the end of each day, the Torah uses the phrase, “It was evening, it was morning, a first day, second day , etc.”

On the sixth day, the Torah uses the definite article by stating:

“It was evening, it was morning THE sixth day”.

Rashi (10th century commentator) explains that the use of the word “THE” is a reference to Shavuot which occurred on the sixth day of Sivan. From here, we can infer that the planning of the giving of the Torah as well as its specific date was an integral part of creation itself. It was not merely a date or time that occurred “on its own”.

Some other important concepts of the number six and its idea of “finality”

1. The sixth Commandment is “Do not murder”. This is a fundamental commandment that entails the respect for humanity. However, the principle of “murder” is not limited to physical murdering of another’s physical body. We are commanded not to embarrass or shame our neighbor in any way. In Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:18 it says:

You shall not go as a talebearer among your people; neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor …

From this verse, the rabbis proclaimed that gossip or any means of publicly embarrassing someone else is likened to murder.

2. One can look, or rather, move his head in five directions:

Up, down, left, right, forward.

The sixth, and, most important direction that one must “look” is INWARDLY. One must search his heart and constantly refine and improve his behavior and actions. This sixth direction is the final and most important step of the previous five.

Incidentally, it is interesting to note that one is unable to see what is behind him. G-d created our eyes to be in front of our heads so that we should always maintain a “forward” view of our lives. While retrospection is useful, it should be used primarily as a tool for improvement and positive change.

3. Five people influence one’s life in terms of behavior and ethics:

Father, mother, spouse, teacher / rabbi, close friend

The sixth and most important influence ultimately comes from oneself. In fact, Pirkei Avot, (Ethics of the Fathers) which, incidentally, also has six chapters, teaches:

“Who is the wise one? One who learns from every person.”

Note that it does not say, “from every OTHER person.” This implies that one can and should learn numerous things from his own actions, both good and bad.

May this Shavuot form the basis for improved performance in mitzvoth and the molding of our own improved behavior.

Similarly, the same mitzvoth are performed by people of all generations. I am sometimes awed when I stand before a great rabbi or talmid chacham. He has tremendous knowledge in Torah and knows how to apply the Torah’s laws to daily life far better than I do. How can I compare with him? Yet, when I see that this Talmid Chacham has to wear tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries) and say the same morning prayers that I do; When I see that he has to make the same blessings before eating something just as I do; When I see he learns the same Torah with the same words, just as I do – I understand the true timelessness of the Torah. It spans all generations and all people. It is a guidebook for all of us, equally.

Mazor Guide to Shavuot, Pentecost, brings you much more about the holiday, its meaning and its traditions... See the links below.

MazorGuide Recommended Reading

RUTH - ArtScroll Edition
A new translation with a commentary anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic sources

The ArtScroll Series presents the comments of the classic giants of ancient and contemporary times in a logical, comprehensible manner, like a master teacher on an exciting voyage of intellectual discovery.

  • Entire Hebrew text reset in clear modern type
  • Flowing English translation
  • Commentary anthologized from 2,000 years of Talmudic and Rabbinic sources
  • Overviews exploring the hashkafah/philosophical background of each volume.

To Be A Jew: A Guide To Jewish Observance In Contemporary Life (Paperback)
by Hayim H. Donin (Author)

 

 
     
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