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Shavuot is a Major Jewish Holiday

05/04/2017 10:28:24 AM


I have often challenged students to go and ask fellow Jews if they could answer this question: What is Shavuot? Do you know that so many can't answer this question?

Shavuot is a major Jewish holiday, which is as important as Rosh Hashana and Pesach! This year it begins at sundown, Tuesday, May 30th and continues through June 1st.

What is this Torah holiday? It falls on the sixth and seventh day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, seven weeks after Passover. In Exodus 23:16 we learn that it is also called “the Feast of the Harvest.” In Numbers 28: 26, there are two more names descriptive of the holiday. “Also in the Day of the First-fruits, when you bring a new meal-offering unto Hashem in your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation: you shall do no manner of servile work.” . Here we see the idea of bringing the first ripe fruits of the wheat harvest to the Temple, and the fact that it is also called the “Feast of Weeks,” since seven weeks are counted from Passover. Pentecost is one of its names, stemming from the Greek word for fiftieth, and reflects the count of 49 days of the Omer counting from the second day of Passover.

What is most striking, according Shavuot a transcendent character, is that it commemorates G-d’s revelation to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai and the giving and receiving of the Ten Commandments and the Torah.

This is such a miraculous event! Many times G-d would speak to a prophet, but this is the only time when G-d appears and speaks before an entire people, men , women, and children! This was the culmination of the Exodus from Egypt and the reason for freedom. The Israelites became spiritually free when they accepted G-d and His teachings at Mount Sinai. There was an everlasting covenant that was established.

Nowadays, the synagogue is often adorned with greens, flowers and plants to commemorate the harvest. Many Jews stay up the first night of the holiday to study the Tikkun, a collection of excerpts from the Torah, the Tanakh and and the teachings of our Rabbis, symbolizing that in every generation we accept G-d’s gift of the Torah.

A special hymn, Akdamut, is chanted on Shavuot day, describing the wonders of G-d’s creation, the greatness of the Torah, and the days of Messiah.

The Ten Commandments are read.The Book of Ruth is also read (either in synagogue or at home) because her story of embracing the faith in one G-d is compared to the people of Israel standing at Mount Sinai doing the same!

Dairy dishes are served during Shavuot, comparing milk and honey to the nourishment and sweetness of the Torah. (A favorite dish is blintzes filled with cheese.)

While some congregations initiate children into the study of Judaism on Shavuot, many have Confirmation Exercises for teens on this Festival.

There is much, much more, but suffice it to say, Shavuot is a major holiday! Please join us for our services.

Penny and I wish you a Chag Sameach, a happy holiday.

Sat, December 4 2021 30 Kislev 5782