Chapter 23 of our parasha, Emor, known as parashat hamoadim,” contains the Torah-based chagim we encounter throughout the Jewish year.
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Speak to b’nai Yisrael and say to them: Hashem’s appointed [holy days] that you shall designate as holy occasions. These are My appointed [holy days]’. … And Moshe told b’nai Yisrael [these laws] of Hashem’s appointed [holy days].”
Rashi was also challenged by the final verse’s placement, asking, “Why was it necessary to write here, ‘And Moshe told,’ for is it not the case that Moshe proclaimed all the mitzvot to the Jewish people? … This comes to teach us that Moshe explained to them the laws of each moad in its proper time to make known to them the laws of Elokim and His Torah. They subsequently accepted and upheld the reward of the mitzvot upon themselves, and their children, in this matter and in the future.” (Talmud Bavli, Megillah 32a)
In some ways, Rashi’s comment was foreshadowed by Onkelos’ Aramaic translation/explanation of our pasuk: “U’malil Moshe yat s’dar mo’adayah d’Hashem v’alaphinun l’b’nai Yisrael (And Moshe stated the order of the moadim of Hashem and explained them [that is, their details] to the Jewish people).”
Closer to our own time, Rabbi Yeshayahu ben Avraham Ha-Levi Horowitz (Shelah HaKadosh, c. 1555-1630) presented a cogent explanation of this verse that gives voice to the unique import of learning Torah on the moadim.
He wrote that it is necessary to learn Torah on yom tov since yom tov is particularly chosen (mesugal) for this. As we learn in the baraita at the conclusion in tractate Megillah in Talmud Bavli (32a): “Moshe established the practice for the Jewish people to ask questions and analyze the various matters associated with each day [that is moad] — the laws of Pesach on Pesach and so forth,” and this is the law on each of the moadot.
The Shelah HaKadosh emphasized that the moadim are mesugal for learning Torah, a notion that he derived from our verse and the baraita he cited. He provided powerful support for this interpretation based on a drasha for the first day of Pesach from Rabbi Yehoshua ibn Shu’eib (1280-1340) that speaks of the outstanding nature of learning Torah on Shabbat and Yom Tov:
When they gather in the synagogues and houses of study to pray and hear words of Torah on the Shabbatot and Yamim Tovim, this is more accepted and desired by the Holy One blessed be He [than any other days], since they have left their physical desires [for sumptuous meals] behind] and have come [instead] to hear words of Torah…this love is more beautiful than all other varieties of love [the Jewish people show to Hashem].”
In his drasha, Rav Shu’eib points to a pasuk from Shir HaShirim that further illustrates the great significance of Torah study — “How fair and how pleasant you are, a love with delights” wherein “delights” are a metaphoric reference for the Torah.
May we be zocheh to experience this intimate attachment to Hashem’s holy Torah, and may we ever find joy in its study on Shabbat and the moadim. V’chane yihi ratzon