Even though the Torah does not explicitly establish the connection between Shavu’ot / Atzeret and Matan Torah, in our collective memory the two are inextricably intertwined, as the Anshei Knesset HaGedola affixed in the prayers of the festival of Matan Torah. Consequently, we place emphasis on the study of Torah on Shavuot night. However, have we not “lost” other mitzvot that are connected directly to the holiday of Shavuot?
There are two mitzvot that are openly associated with Shavuot in the Land of Israel when the Beit HaMikdash was present. One mitzva is the requirement to bring on the holiday from the new wheat Shtei HaLechem, the two shewbreads. This sacrifice is different than the offering of the Omer on the second day of Pesach in two ways: the Omer is brought from barley in the form of grain, whereas the Shtei HaLechemwere brought from wheat in the form of baked bread. All of the commentators discuss the esssence of these differences in that the Omer represents a lower level since barley (not in the form of bread) is the fodder of animals. The two shewbreads, made of wheat and in the form of bread, symbolize the appropriate, higher human level. Another point of emphasis is, in contrast to all other Menachot/meal offerings that were offered as Matza, the Shtei HaLechemwere specifically brought as Chametz!
In addition to the offering of the Shtei HaLechem, the cohanim also brought the sacrifices enumerated in Parshat Emor. These sacrifices were in addition to the Korban Mussaf of Shavuot which are enumerated in Parshat Pinchas together with the other additional sacrifices of the other festivals.
The second mitzva which is connected to Shavuot is Bikurim – “the first fruits” in which every Jew would bring from the first fruits of his land to the Beit HaMikdash as it is detailed in the beginning of Parshat Ki Tavo (likewise in Parshat Ki Tisa, Shmot 34:26). The Mishna in Masechet Bikurim 1:6 states, “From Shavuot until “the festival” [Sukkot] one brings [bikurim] and reads [the special parsha].
It is fascinating that these two mitzvot are the exception to the general rule “That any meal offering you will offer to G-d you shall not make it leavened, for no yeast or honey shall be burned as a fire-offering to G-d (VaYikra 2:11)!? Why is it that specifically on Shavuot, the celebration of our receiving the Torah, we offer the Shtei HaLechemthat are ????! And pecisely from this day we bring the bikurim from the sweet fruits of the Land that are considered like “honey” and we do not bring them in any other way to the Beit HaMikdash except as Bikurim?
This issue is discussed at length in the work “hahashkafa v’hadrash”. His core idea is that the Torah was not given to angels, rather to human beings with all of their frailties and failings. The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat 88a wonderfully describes the heavenly ascent of Moshe Rabeinu to receive the Torah. The ministering angels turn to
G-d and proclaim, “Give your grace (the Torah) to Heavens” (Tehilim 8:2). G-d tells Moshe Rabeinu to answer them. Moshe responds to the angels, “Were you slaves to Pharaoh? Are you living among nations who worship idolatry? Do you work so that you should require a day of rest? Is there jealousy among you? Do you possess a yeitzer hara?” The angels immediately capitulated to Moshe!
Therefore, it is particularly on Shavuot that we bring an offering which contains Chametz and symbolizes extreme pride. We also bring bikurim from the sweet fruits that represent the yeitzer of desire that attempts to seduce us, as though, with the sweetness of the physical world. This teaches us that it is within the power of Torah to overcome all of the negative human traits, to sanctify the material world, and to perfect the persona of the human being that was created in the image of his Maker.