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    Every holiday has
    its unique practices
    and spirit… and its
    own question. Rav
    Yerachmiel Zelcer
    became famous for his
    Sefer Ner Le-Me’ah on
    Chanukah, in which he
    offered 100 answers to what is commonly
    known as the Beis Yosef‘s question: Why
    are there eight days of Chanukah when the
    miracle was only seven days? He followed
    up with a 1981 volume of Ner Le-Me’ah
    on Shavuos offering 100 answers to
    what is known as the Magen Avraham’s
    question: Why is Shavuos (the sixth of
    Sivan and the fiftieth day of the Omer)
    considered the holiday of Matan Torah
    when the Torah was actually given on the
    next day (the seventh of Sivan and the fifty
    first day of the Omer)?
    The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 6b) says
    that sometimes Shavuos fall on the
    fifth of Sivan, sometimes this sixth and
    sometimes the seventh. It depends on
    whether Nissan and Iyar are 29 or 30
    days long. Nowadays, Nissan is always
    30 days and Iyar is always 29 days so

    that Shavuos falls out on the sixth of
    Sivan. However, in the past, before there
    was a set calendar, Shavuos could vary
    year to year. The Gemara (Shabbos 86b)
    says that according to the rabbis, the Ten
    Commandments were given on the sixth
    of Sivan, while according to R. Yossi they
    were given on the seventh. The Shulchan
    Aruch (Yoreh De’ah 196:11) rules like R.
    Yossi on the underlying issue regarding
    purity. Therefore, according to the
    Shulchan Aruch, the Ten Commandments
    were given on the seventh of Sivan. If so,
    how can we say in our prayer that Shavuos
    is the “time of the giving of our Torah”
    (zeman matan Toraseinu), which was on
    the sixth of Sivan? How is Shavuos the
    holiday of Matan Torah?
    What follows is a short selection of the
    answers that Rav Zelcer collected from
    other authors (75 of the answers) and
    offered himself (25 of the answers).
    1) Rav Yitzchak of Dampierre (Ri Ba’al
    Ha-Tosafos; 12th cen.; Hadar Zekeinim,
    Lev. 23:16) asked this question about four
    centuries before the Magen Avraham.
    Ri explains simply that one day doesn’t
    make a difference. Even if we celebrate

    Shavuos on the day before the Torah was
    given, it is still an appropriate time of
    2) Rav Yitzchak Ben Sheshes (Rivash;
    15th cen., Algeria; Responsa, no. 96)
    says that Shavuos does not have to fall
    out exactly on the date of Matan Torah.
    Apparently he is not concerned with
    the exact matching of dates in order for
    Shavuos to be called the time of Matan
    Torah. We can add that in the prayers we
    do not say “the day of Matan Torah.” We
    say the “time” rather than “day.” Perhaps
    this allows for a little deviation from the
    exact day.
    3) Rav Aryeh Leib Ginzberg (18th cen.,
    Lithuania; Turei Even 31a, s.v. ve-haidna)
    explains the Gemara’s conclusion to be
    that Matan Torah was on the sixth of Sivan.
    Even though in ancient time Shavuos
    could have been on the fifth, sixth or
    seventh, since most years Shavuos fell on
    the sixth we follow the majority and refer
    to Shavuos as the time of Matan Torah.
    4) Rav Avraham Gombiner (17th cen.,
    Poland; Magen Avraham 996) suggests
    that really we rule like the rabbis and
    not R. Yossi. However, as a matter of
    strictness, in practice we follow R.
    Yossi. Therefore, we really follow the
    view that the Torah was given on the
    sixth of Sivan.
    5) Rav Shmuel Eidels (Maharsha; 17th
    cen., Poland; Commentary to Avodah
    Zarah 3b, s.v. yom) explains that when
    the Jews left Egypt, they needed to
    purify themselves for 50 days. On the
    fiftieth day, the sixth of Sivan, they
    achieved the necessary level of purity
    and were ready to receive the Torah,
    which took place on the next day. We
    celebrate on the sixth of Sivan because
    that is when we became ready to receive
    the Torah.
    6) Rav Menachem Azariah (Rama
    of Fano; 17th cen., Italy; Asarah
    Ma’amaros, Chikur Ha-Din 2:15)
    points out that the Jews received the
    Torah at Mt. Sinai, which is outside the
    biblical land of Israel. It turns out the
    the Torah was given in the diaspora on
    what we celebrate today in the diaspora
    as the second day of Shavuos. Rama of
    Fano suggests that this shows the divine
    pleasure with our creating times of
    holiness. Indeed, according to R. Yossi,
    Moshe added a day of preparation for
    Matan Torah, which pushed it to the
    seventh of Sivan. This all happened due
    to human initiative for sanctity.

    7) Rav Yehudah Loewe (Maharal; 16th
    cen., Czech; Tiferes Yisrael, ch. 27) says
    that from our perspective, Matan Torah
    was on the seventh of Sivan because that
    is when we received it. However, from the
    divine perspective the Torah was given on
    the sixth of Sivan because that is when it
    was ready to be given. However, it did not
    reach its recipients until the seventh.
    8) Rav Yechezkel Landau (18th cen.,
    Czech; Tzelach, Pesachim 68b, s.v. ha-kol)
    explains that Matan Torah was a three-day
    process. According to Rashi (Ex. 24:4),
    the Jews said “Na’aseh ve-nishma, we will
    do and we will hear” on the fifth of Sivan.
    This was the beginning of the receiving
    of Torah, which continued until the end
    of the giving of the Ten Commandments
    on the seventh of Sivan. This is all called
    Matan Torah. On the fifth day of Sivan, we
    accepted the Torah. On the sixth, the Torah
    was supposed to be given (except that
    Moshe added a day of preparation). On the
    seventh of Sivan, the Torah was actually
    Perhaps we can even suggest that Matan
    Torah lasted for seven days. On Rosh
    Chodesh Sivan, the Jews arrived at Mt.
    Sinai (Ex. 19:1). Moshe went up the
    mountain on the second of Sivan (Rashi,
    Ex. 19:2) and thus began a multi-day
    process of Moshe going up and down
    the mountain culminating in the Ten
    Commandments. Perhaps this entire
    process is considered Matan Torah.