Shavuot, Tisha B’Av and the Yamim Nora’im – some reflections
By Rabbi Malcolm Matitiani
On Motzei Shabbat 17 July, Jews around the world will begin to commemorate Tisha B’Av. I write this article a month after our celebration of Shavuot and it struck me that there are many parallels between this festival and the commemoration of Tisha B’Av.
Shavuot is ritually connected to Pesach through sefirat ha-omer, the counting of the omer. The Torah (Lev. 23:15-17) commands that we count seven complete weeks from the day after the ‘sabbath of Pesach’ until the day after the seventh week – fifty days. Our sages understood ‘sabbath’ to mean the first day of Pesach (as opposed to the Saturday during the week of Pesach) and so we count the omer every night from the second night of Pesach for seven weeks. The next day we celebrate Shavuot, which became the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Utterances at Mount Sinai (originally Shavuot was the celebration of the First Fruits, Chag ha-Bikkurim).
Similarly, Tisha B’Av occurs seven weeks before Rosh HaShanah, a fact that is marked by the seven Haftarot of Consolation, starting with Shabbat Va’etchanan, the first Shabbat after Tisha B’Av. This Shabbat is also referred to as Shabbat Nachamu (Sabbath of Comfort) because this haftarah is followed by six more prophetical readings from the Book of Isaiah, all with the theme of God comforting the People of Israel after their suffering.