Shavuot, otherwise known as “Pentecost,” is the holiday celebrating Jews receiving Torah at Mount Sinai. It falls on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, which this year, falls out on May 20th (and 21st for those outside of Israel).
The holiday is one of the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals, where Jews would travel to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. Shavuot also marks the end of the counting of the Omer, 49 days after the first day of Passover, and this is where it gets its name Shavuot, which translates to “weeks.” On Passover, the Jews were freed from slavery and on Shavuot the Jewish nation was born through the giving of Torah on Mount Sinai.
In addition to concluding the Omer, Shavuot also celebrates the end of the grain harvest, especially wheat. To offer thanksgiving, two loaves of bread from the wheat harvested were made on Shavuot and offered in the Temple. It was also the first day that farmers could bring the first of their fruit harvests as a sacrifice. The first fruits only included Israel’s seven species. The seven species include wheat, barley (which finish their harvest on Shavuot), grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (that now can be offered as the “first fruits”).
Shavuot is unique in that it is one of the only holidays that has no specific commandments to celebrate it, other than a festive meal. However, there are a lot of customs that some Jews follow to celebrate the holiday. Some of these include:
- Eating Dairy foods during the festive meal
- Reading the Book of Ruth during morning services
- Decorating homes with greenery
- Staying awake all night to learn Torah in celebration of receiving it
Shavuot is a joyous occasion with singing and dancing as we celebrate receiving the Torah. Lev Haolam wishes all of our partners a wonderful Shavuot.