What Is Shavuot?
Shavuot is the second of the 3 pilgrim festivals. The festival falls 50 days after Pesach. Pesach – Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt, from physical slavery. Shavuot celebrates the Revelation at Mount Sinai and the giving of the 10 Commandments. The date of Shavuot is the 6th and 7th of the Hebrew month of Sivan.
In addition to the historical reason for the festival, Shavuot also forms part of the celebration of the agricultural cycle. Pesach – the barley harvest at the beginning of Spring in Israel, Shavuot the start of the wheat harvest and summer. Sukkot the festival to celebrate the ingathering of the fruits.
Names of the Shavuot Festival:
- Shavuot: meaning weeks. It is the culmination of a 7-week count.
- Zman Matan Torateinu: The time of the giving of the Torah
- Chag Hakztir: The harvest festival
- Chag Habikkurim: The first fruits of the harvest season were brought to Jerusalem and offered as a sacrifice.
- Atzeret: an assembly a gathering of the People to celebrate their bounty from Hashem.
What do we do on Shavuot?
- Shavuot is a Yom Tov a holy day. We do not work and rest like a Shabbat.
- Unlike the other festivals, there is no special mitzvah for Shavuot.
There is however a number of important traditions and customs that we observe:
- We eat a dairy meal. This expands to customary foods like blintzes and cheesecake. There are a few reasons for this custom:
- a) A baby requires milk to grow. So too the Jewish People need the Torah.
- b) The Hebrew word for milk is חלב- Chalav has a numerical value of 40. To symbolize the 40 days that Moses was on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah.
- c) When the Torah was given. It was forbidden to eat meat unless it was correctly slaughtered. This meant that there was no meat to eat.
2. We study all night – called the Tikkun Leil.
A) The reason for this custom was that the Jews overslept on the morning of the Revelation. To atone for this we stay up all night and study Torah.
B) The anticipation of receiving the Torah means that we prepare for the occasion by studying multiple texts. In the same way, as we would test drive a car before we buy it. We read through different texts in preparation for the Revelation on Sinai.
3. We decorate the Synagogues with greenery.
A) The mountain was covered in greenery when the Torah was given. (This is based on the verse Ex.34:3) that there was a prohibition for animals to go on the mountain to feed. It means that in the desert this mountain had greenery.
B) The festival of Shavuot is a time of the judgment of the fruit. So we highlight the fruits and trees by greening our shuls.
a) The book tells the story of Ruth’s conversion to Judaism. Mimics the acceptance of the Jewish People of Hashem and His Torah.
b) The story takes place during the harvest season which is the time of Shavuot.
c) The story highlights the chesed of the farmers to care for those less fortunate. This is a feature of Shavuot.
d) The story tells the ancestry of King David whose yahrzeit is on Shavuot