MiMachorat HaShabbat


An Enigmatic Phrase

Vayikra 23 provides a complete list of the annual festivals.  After opening by commanding the observance of Shabbat, Pesach, and Chag HaMatzot, it turns to describe the Omer offering and the fifty day leading up to the bringing of the Two Loaves ("שתי הלחם").  In recording the dates of these two offerings and the counting which links them, the Torah thrice repeats the confounding term "מִמחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת":

(י) דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם וּקְצַרְתֶּם אֶת קְצִירָהּ וַהֲבֵאתֶם אֶת עֹמֶר רֵאשִׁית קְצִירְכֶם אֶל הַכֹּהֵן. (יא) וְהֵנִיף אֶת הָעֹמֶר לִפְנֵי י"י לִרְצֹנְכֶם מִמחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת יְנִיפֶנּוּ הַכֹּהֵן...

(טו) וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה. (טז) עַד מִמחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה לַי"י. (יז) מִמּוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם תָּבִיאּוּ לֶחֶם תְּנוּפָה שְׁתַּיִם שְׁנֵי עֶשְׂרֹנִים סֹלֶת תִּהְיֶינָה חָמֵץ תֵּאָפֶינָה בִּכּוּרִים לַי"י...

(כא) וּקְרָאתֶם בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כל מְלֶאכֶת עֲבֹדָה לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ חֻקַּת עוֹלָם בְּכל מוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם.

What is "הַשַּׁבָּת" to which the Torah refers?  Does it allude to a day previously mentioned, as the definite article (ה' הידיעה) might imply?  Could it hark back to the weekly Shabbat described at the beginning of the Chapter?  But, if so, which of the many Sabbaths of the year would it be?  Alternatively, if it refers to the immediately preceding holidays of Pesach and Chag HaMatzot,[1] why use the confusing term "שַׁבַּת"?

Uniqueness of Shavuot

For almost all of the holidays in Vayikra 23, the Torah opens by giving their calendrical dates, continues with the prohibitions of performing labor on them, and in some cases adds some of their unique laws.  The lone exception is the festival of the Bikkurim (or Shavuot) for which no lunar date is provided.  It is instead prefaced by the lengthy description of the offerings and counting detailed above.  Only after this does the Torah finally tell us that the day of the Two Loaves offering should also be proclaimed as a holiday.  What accounts for the difference between Shavuot and all of the other festivals?

Additionally, while the other sections of the chapter proceed sequentially, the non-calendrical dating of the Omer Offering raises the issue of how it fits within the broader structure of the Chapter.  Does it chronologically follow the entire preceding unit of Chag HaMatzot, or might there be overlap between them?

Yehoshua Parallel?

Vayikra 23 prohibits eating from the newly reaped produce until after the Omer is brought:

(יד) וְלֶחֶם וְקָלִי וְכַרְמֶל לֹא תֹאכְלוּ עַד עֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַד הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת קרְבַּן אֱלֹהֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם.

Using similar language, Yehoshua 5 recounts what appears to be the precise fulfillment of this commandment immediately upon the nation's entry into the Promised Land:

(יא) וַיֹּאכְלוּ מֵעֲבוּר הָאָרֶץ מִמחֳרַת הַפֶּסַח מַצּוֹת וְקָלוּי בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. (יב) וַיִּשְׁבֹּת הַמָּן מִמחֳרָת בְּאכְלָם מֵעֲבוּר הָאָרֶץ וְלֹא הָיָה עוֹד לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מָן וַיֹּאכְלוּ מִתְּבוּאַת אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִיא.

In Yehoshua, though, the term "מִמחֳרַת הַפֶּסַח" is used, in contrast to the "מִמחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת" of Vayikra.  Do both phrases mean the same thing?  On which day did the people eat the new produce in the time of Yehoshua?  Can the verses in Yehoshua shed light on our passage in Vayikra?


These issues have been the source of fiery debate between many sects of Judaism and assorted commentators from time immemorial.  To explore some of their positions, continue to Approaches.

1 For more on the relationship between these two holidays, see Pesach and Chag HaMatzot – A Two for One.