At the close of our portion of this week (Pinchas), we learn about all the sacrifices of Mussafim, the additional sacrifices which are to be offered on holy days- the Shabbats, Chagim, & beginnings of months – the Rashey Chodashim.
On all the Holy days, starting from Rosh Chodesh, through Pessach and Shavuot (Jewish Pentecost) we are to offer HaShem in the Temple:
2 oxen 🐂 🐂
1 ram 🐏
7 sheep 🐑 🐑 🐑 🐑 🐑 🐑 🐑
But when the seventh month, Tishrey, starts with Rosh Hashana – our New Year, something changes:
1 ox 🐂!!!
1 ram 🐏
7 sheep ￼￼ 🐑🐑🐑🐑🐑🐑🐑
This is on Rosh Hashana, and also on 10th Tishrey which is Yom Kippur.
On Succot, on the 15th, things really go berserk, but that – we know – is because on that holiday the sacrifices are also for all humanity, gentiles included, so there are a total of 70 oxen for each of the 70 nations of the world; starting from 13 on the first day, going down to 7 at the seventh day.
But on Shemini Atzeret, the 8th of Succot, when the multinational celebration is over – we’re back to 1 ox, 1 ram, 7 sheep.
So, where did that bull go???
What happened between Passover and Pentecost, and the holidays of Tishrey? Why is there only one ox?
Between The two first Chagim, Pesach & Shavuot, and Tishrey comes the period in which we are now – the Beyn Hameytzarim, the three weeks of ‘between the straits’ as they may be translated. A hard time, each year, for the People of Israel. These are times which are bordered by two tragic events: 17th Tamuz, the time when we worshipped the Golden Calf, and 9th Av, the day where we mistrusted G-d and betrayed the Land of Israel, through the slander of the Spies.
But this period is also a period of transition between two directions or bearings in our relationship with HaShem.
The first inclination is from high up downward, from G-d to us.
The first Chagim, Pesach and Shavuot, are part of this manner: they are both great gifts from G-d, given us with almost no effort on our part – the gift of Freedom (Pesach) , and the gift of Torah (Shavuot).
But apparently, we were not sufficiently ready for these gifts. We could not, bach then, complete our Freedom by entering the Land that belongs to us, having become too soft hearted to fight for it; and we failed utterly in our acceptance of God’s laws, through the profanity of worshipping the Golden Calf.
In our history, those sins were transformed into our greatest misfortunes, at those dates exactly: the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem on 17th Tamuz, and the destruction of both temples on 9th Av.
These have always been hard times for us, but they do serve a purpose. Because through them we enter the time of repentance of Eylul and Tishrey, which are our saving and salvation.
Only now, the directions are reversed: Now it’s from us, down low – towards Him, as it is all up to us, and our Free Choice.
That’s the reason for the disappearance of one of the oxen. Because apparently the two oxen stood for HaShem and us, and now – there’s only us; it is our responsibility.
It may also be said, that accepting responsibility, we become one with HaShem – that’s why the two oxen become one.