And the entire Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of the kiln…
The Holiday of Shavuot is thought to be a culmination of the Passover. Just as Shmini Atzeret is a culmination of the Holiday of Sukkot and comes after seven days of Sukkot, Shavuot is also called Atzeret and comes after the Holiday of Pesach, albeit separated from it by forty-nine days of Omer.
On Shavuot we read a Torah portion from the Chapter 19 of the Book of Shemot (Exodus). We already discussed the verse 18, “Mount Sinai smoked,” in the previous post, Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it. Here, I’d like to focus on the word “smoked” from a different perspective. It hints at a deep significance of the sequence Pesach-Omer-Shavuot.
In the original Hebrew, the word “smoked” is “Oshan.” As the Mittler Rebbe (the Second Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch) points out in the maamar Drushei Hag HaShavuot, this word, OShaN, can be seen as the acronym for three words –– Olam (world), Shana (year) and Nefesh (soul). These three words appear in Sefer Yetzira – the oldest book of Kabbalah – as the code words for the three dimensions of reality – space, time and spirituality.
The Holiday of Pesach is called Zman Heruteinu – time of our freedom – hinting at the very essence of this Holiday. If Shavuot is a culmination of Pesach, it must have to do with freedom as well. What about time in between – the 49 days of counting of the Omer?
It seems to me that with the word Oshan (smoke), Torah teaches us that we must achieve freedom in all three dimensions of our reality – in space, in time and in spirituality. Indeed, the Passover celebrates Exodus from Egypt when Jewish people achieved their freedom in space. Immediately thereafter, they are given their first commandment – to count new moon – Rosh Chodesh, to bring the holiness and freedom into the dimension of time. The process of achieving freedom in time continues with the commandment of counting 49 days of Omer. Forty nine days is the square of number seven, which is viewed as the number associated with time – seven days in a week, seven years of Shmita (Sabbatical Year), seven Shmitot in Yovel (Jubilee). To achieve freedom in time, we must make every day count. And, at last, on Shavuot, by giving us the Torah and its commandments, God gave meaning to the dimension of spirituality completing our freedom is all three dimensions of reality – space, time and spirituality.