And if Moses, our teacher, was a lover of the Jewish people, why did he delay them in the wilderness forty years? The elderly man said to him: My teacher, you dismiss me with this retort? Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai said to him: Fool! And will our perfect Torah not be as worthy as your frivolous speech? Your claim can easily be refuted.
Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai cites a proof that Shavuot does not need to occur specifically on a Sunday. One verse states: “Even to the morrow after the seventh week you shall number fifty days; and you shall present a new meal offering to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:16), and one verse, the preceding one, apparently contradicts this when it states: “And you shall count for you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete.” Is the festival of Shavuot seven full weeks after Passover, i.e., counting from Sunday through Shabbat seven times; or is it fifty days after Passover?
The Gemara explains: How so, i.e., how can one reconcile these two verses? Here, the verse that mentions seven complete weeks, is referring to a year when the festival of Passover occurs on Shabbat. In such a year, the fifty-day period between Passover and Shavuot contains seven complete weeks, from Sunday through Shabbat. There, the verse that defines the period as fifty days, is referring to a year when the festival of Passover occurs in the middle of the week.
The Gemara presents a mnemonic for several other proofs in refutation of the claim of the Boethusians: That of Rabbi Eliezer: Number; Rabbi Yehoshua: Count; Rabbi Yishmael: From the omer; Rabbi Yehuda: Below.
Rabbi Eliezer says: The previous proof is not necessary, as the verse states: “Seven weeks you shall number for you; from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain you shall begin to number seven weeks” (Deuteronomy 16:9). The term “for you” indicates that the counting of the weeks is dependent upon the decision of the court, as they know how to calculate the new months, upon which the date of the Festival depends. Therefore, when the verse states: “The morrow after the day of rest [hashabbat]” (Leviticus 23:16), it means: The morrow after the Festival, as the determination of Festivals is by the court. This serves to exclude the interpretation that the counting starts after the Shabbat of Creation, i.e., a regular weekly Shabbat, whose counting can be performed by every person, not exclusively by the court.
Citing a different proof, Rabbi Yehoshua says: The Torah said to count days, as it is stated: “A month of days” (Numbers 11:20), and then sanctify the month with offerings. And the Torah also said to count days from Passover and then sanctify the festival of Shavuot with offerings, as it is stated: “You shall count fifty days” (Leviticus 23:16). From this comparison, one can learn that just as the start of the counting toward the new month is known even before it comes, as one begins counting toward the following new month on the first day of a month, so too the start of the counting toward the festival of Shavuot is known even before it comes, as one begins counting toward Shavuot on a fixed day of the month.
The Gemara elaborates: And if you say that the festival of Shavuot always occurs the day after Shabbat, how is the counting toward Shavuot known based on what came before it? If the occurrence of Shavuot depends upon a Shabbat, there would be no specific date after Passover upon which the counting occurs yearly.
Rabbi Yishmael says there is another refutation of the Boethusian interpretation. The Torah said: Bring the omer offering on the festival on Passover and the two loaves on Shavuot. Just as there, with regard to the offering on the festival of Shavuot, the two loaves are brought at the beginning of the Festival, as it lasts only one day, so too here, with regard to the festival of Passover, the omer must be brought at the beginning of the Festival. If the omer were to always be brought on a Sunday, this might occur at the end of the festival of Passover. For example, if Passover started on a Monday, the omer would be brought only on the next Sunday, at the end of the Festival.
Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira says there is yet another refutation. It is stated “shabbat” above (Leviticus 23:15), with regard to starting the counting of the omer, and it is also stated “shabbat” below (Leviticus 23:16), with regard to the commencement of the festival of Shavuot. Just as there, with regard to the festival of Shavuot, it is stated: “Even until the morrow after the seventh week [hashabbat] you shall number fifty days,” and the word shabbat is referring to the beginning of the Festival and it immediately follows the end of the seventh week; so too here, with regard to the bringing of the omer, the word shabbat means Festival, so that the omer offering immediately follows the beginning of the Festival, on the second day of Passover. According to the Boethusians, the commencement of the counting could start well after the beginning of Passover. For example, if Passover occurs on a Sunday, the counting of the omer would start only the following Sunday.
The Sages taught in a baraita: The verse states: “And you shall count for you from the morrow after the day of rest [hashabbat], from the day that you brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks there shall be complete” (Leviticus 23:15). The phrase: “And you shall count for you,” teaches that the mitzva of counting is not a communal obligation. Rather, there should be a counting by each and every person.
The baraita continues: From the morrow after the day of rest [hashabbat], this means from the morrow after the festival of Passover. Or perhaps this is not the meaning of the verse, but rather it means after the Shabbat of Creation, i.e., Sunday. Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda says: This cannot be correct, as the verse states: “Even until the morrow after the seventh week you shall number fifty days” (Leviticus 23:16). This teaches that all the countings that you count shall be only fifty days.
Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda elaborates: And if you say that the clause: “From the morrow after the day of rest [hashabbat],” is referring to the Shabbat of Creation, sometimes you will find a count of fifty-one days from the first day of Passover, which is the date that the count began the previous year, until Shavuot; and sometimes you will find fifty-two, or fifty-three, or fifty-four, or fifty-five, or fifty-six. For example, in one year, Passover occurs on Shabbat, and the counting of the omer would start on Sunday, the sixteenth of Nisan, and Shavuot would occur fifty days later. Another year, Passover occurs on a Friday, and the counting starts on Sunday, then the date that Shavuot will occur this year is fifty-one days from the sixteenth of Nisan. If Passover occurs on a Thursday, and the counting begins on the following Sunday, Shavuot will occur fifty-two days from the sixteenth of Nisan.
Rabbi Yehuda ben Beteira says: That proof is not necessary,