What is the correct name for Shavuot?

In our prayers we call the holiday of Shavuot “Zman Matan Torateinu”, “the time of the giving of our Torah.” In the Torah reading for Shavuot we read the account of B’nei Yisrael’s arrival at Sinai and the receiving of the Ten Commandments (Shmot 19:1-20:23) yet we do not find the holiday being called “Zman Matan Torateinu” in the Torah itself.

According to Abravanel, we don’t need one day to commemorate the receiving of the Torah as the Torah and prophecies constitute their own testimony. The basis for Shavuot is to celebrate the beginning of the wheat harvest, just as Sukkot celebrates the end of the harvest. Shavuot is not about the giving of the Torah, it is about bringing the first fruits (Bikurim) to the Beit HaMikdash and the counting of the seven weeks (the culmination of the Omer).

Nechama Leibowitz points out that Abravanel’s explanation ignores the way that the holiday is celebrated with the traditional all night gathering (Tikkun Leil Shavuot) in the synagogue in preparation for receiving the Torah as well as the reading of the Ten Commandments in the morning with many communities standing during the reading, as if witnessing the Revelation at Sinai.

The Akedat Yitzchak says that there is no appointed time to remember the Torah and its acceptance since the Torah and its study are a permanent obligation, every day and at all times as it says in Yehoshua 1:8, “This book of the Torah shall not depart out of your mouth you shall meditate therein day and night.” The Torah must always be new and beloved to us as on the day it was given to us.

Rabbi Hayim Paltiel states that in the prayers for each of the Shalosh Regalim (Pilgrimage Festivals), we don’t mention every aspect of the holiday. Rather, we focus on God’s acts of kindness. Therefore on Pesach we say “Zman Cheruteinu”, “the time of our freedom”, on Sukkot we say “Zman Simchateinu”, “the time of our gladness” and on Shavuot we say “Zman Matan Torateinu.”

All of the names for Shavuot are valid. It is Chag HaShavuot since it is the culmination of our counting seven weeks from Pesach. It is Chag HaBikurim since when the Beit HaMikdash stood the first fruits were brought up to Jerusalem. And it is called Zman Matan Torateinu since after 49 days, B’nei Yisrael were finally worthy to receive the Torah. Ever since the Revelation at Sinai, as a nation, we have continued to receive the Torah every day.

As we say each morning in Birkot HaTorah (the blessings recited on Torah study) “Baruch Atah HaShem, Noten HaTorah”, “Blessed are You, God, Giver of the Torah.”

Each day is part of the marriage between God and the Jewish people and Shavuot is the anniversary.