At the heart of the Shavu’ot celebration is God’s provision for His people, both practically and spiritually. Shavu’ot ultimately invites Jews to remember where they came from, where they are now, and their covenant with God, who brought them there. It is a celebration of one people and one nation who serve one God.
One of the most sacred holidays on the Jewish calendar, Shavu’ot is a two-day celebration which translates to mean “weeks” in Hebrew, lending credence to one of its more recognizable names, the “Festival of Weeks.” In the Greek, the word translates to Pentecost, which is the name familiar to most Christians. Shavu’ot is celebrated 50 days—or seven weeks—after the second day of Passover, typically in May or June.
While Shavu’ot is traditionally an agricultural festival which required Jewish people to make an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to present bikkurim, the first fruits of their harvest, it also commemorates the giving of the Torah (the Law) on Mount Sinai after the people of Israel fled persecution in Egypt.
Shavu’ot in Israel is a highly celebratory affair, with parties and fun events for all ages to enjoy. During the holiday, Israelis often decorate their homes and synagogues with flowers and greenery. They traditionally wear white clothing, and children wear wreaths of flowers in their hair. Fresh fruit is for sale in abundance.
And one thing is for sure—if you’re celebrating Shavu’ot in Israel, you’ll be very likely to find a cheesecake, quiches, and more than a few blintzes on every table. Eating a dairy-based meal at Shavu’ot is a timeless tradition that has its roots in Exodus 3:8, which refers to Israel as a land “flowing with milk and honey.” Prohibited from eating meat, the people of Israel were introduced to dairy-based foods for the first time as part of their ritual diet.
Many synagogues open their doors all night to the public, devoted to Torah study until sunrise. Others gather in their homes with loved ones and friends. Some include special readings from the Book of Ruth, along with recitation of the Hallel (Psalms of Praise) and observance of Yizkor, the memorial service.
Regardless of where you celebrate it, Shavu’ot is a sacred, yet joyous holiday of the covenant bond that makes us one with God and one with each other.
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