This year the holiday of Shavuot (pronounced sha-voo-ote) begins at sundown May 14, and continues through Thursday, May 16.
The name of the holiday means weeks and it comes at the end of a 7 week period of counting beginning at the holiday of Passover. Sometimes the holiday is actually called “The Festival of Weeks”.
Shavuot is one of a group of three major holidays mentioned in the Torah (The Five Books of Moses). The three holidays are Pesach (Passover), Shavuot, and Sukkot (The Festival of Booths).
Originally, Shavuot was an agricultural festival. On Shavuot the people brought their first fruits of the harvest as an offering to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the main location of worship in ancient times.
Later, tradition attributed another meaning to the holiday; that Shavuot was the time when God gave the Torah to the Jewish People. The Torah is seen as the “constitution” of Judaism. The Torah and the interpretations of the Torah by Rabbis through the ages is our guide as to how we should live our lives.
How is Shavuot celebrated?
- There is a tradition that on the first night of the holiday the holiday begins with late or all-night Torah study sessions in honor of the Giving of the Torah.
- The reading of the Ten Commandments is a highlight of the synagogue service on this holiday. Also, synagogue pulpits are adorned with greenery and flower arrangements to reflect the harvest origins of the holiday.
- The foods customarily eaten on this holiday are dairy foods such as cheese blintzes and cheesecake. In the Bible, Israel is referred to as the land of “milk and honey”. This is one of the reasons given for the eating of dairy foods on this holiday.
By: Miriam Brunn Ruberg