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Shavuot (Feast of Weeks)

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Monday, May 16, 2021 is the feast of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks)

What Is Shavuot? What Shavuot Commemorates

The word Shavuot means “weeks.” It celebrates the completion of the seven-week Omer counting period between Passover and Shavuot.

Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firs fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel (Exodus 34: 22-23)

The Torah was given by God to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai on Shavuot. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of God's gift, and God “re-gives” the Torah.

The giving of the Torah was a far-reaching spiritual event—one that touched the essence of the Jewish soul for all times. Our sages have compared it to a wedding between God and the Jewish people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day God swore eternal devotion to us, and we in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him.

In ancient times, two wheat loaves would be offered in the Holy Temple on Shavuot. It was also at this time that people would begin to bring bikkurim, their first and choicest fruits, to thank God for Israel’s bounty. Bring the best of the firs fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God (Exodus 23: 19)

In some of the Israeli Kibbutz, until today, they celebrate Shavuot as an agricultural feast, where the entire community celebrates together, presenting the first fruits of the land and the first babies born during that year, all connected to nature, to the land and to the people living in the land.

How Is Shavuot Celebrated?

Women and girls light holiday candles to usher in the holiday, on both the first and second evenings of the holidays. It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot. All men, women and children should go to the synagogue to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments on the first day of Shavuot. As on other holidays, special meals are eaten, and no “work” may be performed.

It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. Menus range from traditional cheese blintzes to quiches, casseroles and more. Some communities read the Book of Ruth during morning services, as King David—whose passing occurred on this day—was a descendant of Ruth the Moabite.

Some have the custom to decorate their homes (and synagogues) with flowers and sweet-smelling plants in advance of Shavuot, since this a holiday connected to nature.

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