Shavuot

Shavuot

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Shavuot'
Start a new discussion about 'Shavuot'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The festival of is a Jewish holiday
Jewish holiday
Jewish holidays are days observed by Jews as holy or secular commemorations of important events in Jewish history. In Hebrew, Jewish holidays and festivals, depending on their nature, may be called yom tov or chag or ta'anit...

 that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan
Sivan
Sivan is the ninth month of the civil year and the third month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. It is a spring month of 30 days...

 (late May or early June).

Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 to the entire Israelite
Israelite
According to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...

 nation assembled at Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai , also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa , Jabal Musa meaning "Moses' Mountain", is a mountain near Saint Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. A mountain called Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus in the Torah and the Bible as well as the Quran...

, although the association between the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text. The holiday is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals. It marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer
Counting of the Omer
Counting of the Omer is a verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot...

.

The date of Shavuot is directly linked to that of Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

. The Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 mandates the seven-week Counting of the Omer
Counting of the Omer
Counting of the Omer is a verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot...

, beginning on the second day of Passover and immediately followed by Shavuot. This counting of days and weeks is understood to express anticipation and desire for the Giving of the Torah. On Passover, the Jewish people were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Shavuot they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God.

In Hasidic
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

 thought, the word Shavuot "Weeks" is interpreted as also an acronym for Shavuot, Bikkurim, Atzeret, Torah.

Shavuot is one of the lesser known Jewish holiday
Jewish holiday
Jewish holidays are days observed by Jews as holy or secular commemorations of important events in Jewish history. In Hebrew, Jewish holidays and festivals, depending on their nature, may be called yom tov or chag or ta'anit...

s among secular Jews
Secular Jewish culture
Secular Jewish culture embraces several related phenomena; above all, it is the international culture of secular communities of Jewish people, but it can also include the cultural contributions of individuals who identify as secular Jews...

 in the diaspora
Diaspora
A diaspora is "the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland" or "people dispersed by whatever cause to more than one location", or "people settled far from their ancestral homelands".The word has come to refer to historical mass-dispersions of...

, while those in Israel are more aware of it.

According to Jewish law
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

, Shavuot is celebrated in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 for one day and in the Diaspora
Jewish diaspora
The Jewish diaspora is the English term used to describe the Galut גלות , or 'exile', of the Jews from the region of the Kingdom of Judah and Roman Iudaea and later emigration from wider Eretz Israel....

 (outside of Israel) for two days. Reform Jews celebrate only one day, even in the Diaspora.

In the Hebrew Bible


In the Bible, Shavuot is called the Festival of Weeks (Hebrew: חג השבועות, Ḥag ha-Shavuot, ); Festival of Reaping (Hebrew: חג הקציר, Ḥag ha-Katsir), and Day of the First Fruits (Hebrew יום הבכורים, Yom ha-Bikkurim). The Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 refers to Shavuot as Atzeret , referring to the prohibition against work on this holiday and to the conclusion of the holiday and season of Passover. Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Hellenistic Jews
Hellenistic Judaism
Hellenistic Judaism was a movement which existed in the Jewish diaspora that sought to establish a Hebraic-Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism...

 gave it the name Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

 (πεντηκοστή, "fiftieth day
Day
A day is a unit of time, commonly defined as an interval equal to 24 hours. It also can mean that portion of the full day during which a location is illuminated by the light of the sun...

").

Besides its significance as the day on which the Torah was revealed by God to the Jewish nation at Mount Sinai (which includes the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

), Shavuot is also connected to the season of the grain harvest in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks and was a season of gladness . It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. Shavuot was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest, just as the eighth day of Sukkot
Sukkot
Sukkot is a Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei . It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals Shalosh regalim on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.The holiday lasts seven days...

 (Tabernacles) was the concluding festival of the fruit harvest. During the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

, an offering
Korban
The term offering as found in the Hebrew Bible in relation to the worship of Ancient Israel is mainly represented by the Hebrew noun korban whether for an animal or other offering...

 of two loaves of bread from the wheat harvest was made on Shavuot.

Second Temple period


The date of Shevuot was disputed in the Second Temple period. The Qumran
Qumran
Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia...

 community, commonly associated with the Essenes, held in its library several texts mentioning Shevuot, most notably a Hebrew original of the Book of Jubilees which sought to fix the celebration of this Feast of Weeks on 15 of Kislev, following their interpretation of Exodus 19:1.

Ceremony of First Fruits, Bikkurim


Shavuot was also the first day on which individuals could bring the Bikkurim (first fruits
First Fruits
First Fruits are a religious offering of the first agricultural produce of the harvest. In classical Greek, Roman, Hebrew and Christian religions, the first fruits were offered to the temple or church. First Fruits were often a primary source of income to maintain the religious leaders and the...

) to the Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

 (Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

 Bikkurim
Bikkurim (Talmud)
Bikkurim is the eleventh tractate of Seder Zeraim of the Mishnah and of the Talmud. All versions of the Mishnah contain the first three chapters, and some versions contain a fourth....

 1:3). The Bikkurim were brought from the Seven Species
Seven Species
The Seven Species are seven agricultural products - two grains and five fruits - that are listed in the Hebrew Bible as being special products of the Land of Israel....

 for which the Land of Israel
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

 is praised: wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

, barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

, grapes, figs
Ficus
Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemiepiphyte in the family Moraceae. Collectively known as fig trees or figs, they are native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone. The Common Fig Ficus is a genus of...

, pomegranate
Pomegranate
The pomegranate , Punica granatum, is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing between five and eight meters tall.Native to the area of modern day Iran, the pomegranate has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times. From there it spread to Asian areas such as the Caucasus as...

s, olive
Olive
The olive , Olea europaea), is a species of a small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea.Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the...

s, and dates
Date Palm
The date palm is a palm in the genus Phoenix, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from lands around the Persian Gulf. It is a medium-sized plant, 15–25 m tall, growing singly or forming a clump with...

 (Deut. 8:8). In the largely agrarian society of ancient Israel, Jewish farmers would tie a reed around the first ripening fruits from each of these species in their fields. At the time of harvest, the fruits identified by the reed would be cut and placed in baskets woven of gold and silver. The baskets would then be loaded on oxen whose horns were gilded and laced with garlands of flowers, and who were led in a grand procession to Jerusalem. As the farmer and his entourage passed through cities and towns, they would be accompanied by music and parades.

At the Temple, each farmer would present his Bikkurim to a kohen
Kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

 in a ceremony that followed the text of . This text begins by stating, "An Aramean tried to destroy my father," referring to Laban
Laban (Bible)
Laban is the son of Bethuel, brother of Rebekah and the father of Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah as described in the Book of Genesis. As such he is brother-in-law to Isaac and both father-in-law and uncle to Jacob...

's efforts to weaken Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

 and rob him of his progeny (Rashi
Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

 on Deut. 26:5)—or by an alternate translation, the text states "My father was a wandering Aramean," referring to the fact that Jacob was a penniless wanderer in the land of Aram for 20 years (ibid., Abraham ibn Ezra
Abraham ibn Ezra
Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra was born at Tudela, Navarre in 1089, and died c. 1167, apparently in Calahorra....

). The text proceeds to retell the history of the Jewish people as they went into exile in Egypt and were enslaved and oppressed; following which God redeemed them
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

 and brought them to the land of Israel. The ceremony of Bikkurim conveys the Jew's gratitude to God both for the first fruits of the field and for His guidance throughout Jewish history (Scherman, p. 1068).

Modern observances



Shavuot is unlike other Jewish holidays in that it has no prescribed mitzvot
Mitzvah
The primary meaning of the Hebrew word refers to precepts and commandments as commanded by God...

 (Torah commandments) other than the traditional festival observances of abstention from work, special prayer services and holiday meals. However, it is characterized by many minhag
Minhag
Minhag is an accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism. A related concept, Nusach , refers to the traditional order and form of the prayers...

im (customs). A mnemonic for these customs is the letters of the Hebrew word acharit (אחרית, "last"). Since the Torah is called reishit (ראשית, "first"), the customs of Shavuot highlight the importance of custom for the continuation and preservation of Jewish religious observance. These customs, largely observed in Ashkenazic
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 communities, are:
  • אקדמות – Akdamut, the reading of a liturgical poem during Shavuot morning synagogue services
  • חלב – Chalav (milk), the consumption of dairy products like milk and cheese
  • רות – Ruth, the reading of the Book of Ruth
    Book of Ruth
    The Book of Ruth is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, or Old Testament. In the Jewish canon the Book of Ruth is included in the third division, or the Writings . In the Christian canon the Book of Ruth is placed between Judges and 1 Samuel...

     at morning services
  • ירק – Yerek, the decoration of homes and synagogues with greenery
  • תורה – Torah, engaging in all-night Torah study.

Akdamut



Akdamut (Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

: אקדמות) is a liturgical poem extolling the greatness of God, the Torah and Israel that is read publicly in the synagogue right before the morning reading of the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 on the first day of Shavuot. It was composed by Rabbi Meir of Worms
Worms, Germany
Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Rhine River. At the end of 2004, it had 85,829 inhabitants.Established by the Celts, who called it Borbetomagus, Worms today remains embattled with the cities Trier and Cologne over the title of "Oldest City in Germany." Worms is the only...

, whose son was murdered during the Crusade of 1096. Rabbi Meir was forced to defend the Torah and his Jewish faith in a debate with local priests, and successfully conveyed his certainty of God's power, His love for the Jewish people, and the excellence of Torah. Afterwards he wrote Akdamut
Akdamut
Akdamut, or Akdamus or Akdamut Milin, or Akdomus Milin , is a prominent Aramaic liturgical poem recited annually on the Jewish holiday of Shavuos by Ashkenazi Jews...

, a 90-line poem in Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

 which stresses these themes. The poem is written in a double acrostic pattern according to the order of the Hebrew alphabet
Hebrew alphabet
The Hebrew alphabet , known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script, block script, or more historically, the Assyrian script, is used in the writing of the Hebrew language, as well as other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. There have been two...

. In addition, each line ends with the syllable "ta" (תא), the last and first letters of the Hebrew alphabet, alluding to the endlessness of Torah. The traditional melody which accompanies this poem also conveys a sense of grandeur and triumph.

Sephardim do not read Akdamut, but before the evening service they sing a poem called Azharot which sets out the 613 Biblical commandments
613 mitzvot
The 613 commandments is a numbering of the statements and principles of law, ethics, and spiritual practice contained in the Torah or Five Books of Moses...

. The positive commandments are recited on the first day and the negative commandments on the second day.

The liturgical poem of Yatziv Pitgam (Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

: יציב פתגם) is recited by some synagogues in the Diaspora on the second day of Shavuot. The author and his father's name appear in an acrostic at the beginning of the poem's 15 lines.

Dairy foods



Dairy foods such as cheesecake
Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a dessert consisting of a topping made of soft, fresh cheese, usually on a crust or base made from biscuit , pastry or sponge cake. They may be baked or unbaked...

, cheese blintz
Blintz
A blin, blintze, or blintz is a thin pancake. It is somewhat similar to a crêpe with the main difference being that yeast may be used in blini, but not in crêpes.-Etymology, origins, culture :...

es, and cheese kreplach
Kreplach
Kreplach are small dumplings filled with ground meat, mashed potatoes or another filling, usually boiled and served in chicken soup. They are similar to Italian tortellini and Chinese wontons. The dough is traditionally made of flour, water and eggs, kneaded and rolled out thin...

 among Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

; cheese sambusak, kelsonnes (cheese ravioli
Ravioli
Ravioli are a traditional type of Italian filled pasta. They are composed of a filling sealed between two layers of thin egg pasta dough and are served either in broth or with a pasta sauce. The word ravioli is reminiscent of the Italian verb riavvolgere , though the two words are not...

), and atayef (a cheese-filled pancake) among Syrian Jews
Syrian Jews
Syrian Jews are Jews who inhabit the region of the modern state of Syria, and their descendants born outside Syria. Syrian Jews derive their origin from two groups: from the Jews who inhabited the region of today's Syria from ancient times Syrian Jews are Jews who inhabit the region of the modern...

; kahee (a dough that is buttered and sugared) among Iraqi Jews
History of the Jews in Iraq
The history of the Jews in Iraq is documented from the time of the Babylonian captivity c. 586 BCE. Iraqi Jews constitute one of the world's oldest and most historically significant Jewish communities....

; and a seven-layer cake called siete cielos (seven heavens) among Tunisian
History of the Jews in Tunisia
The history of the Jews in Tunisia goes back to Roman times. Before 1948, the Jewish population of Tunisia reached a peak of 110,000. From the 1950s, half this number left for Israel and the other half for France...

 and Moroccan Jews are traditionally served on Shavuot. Yemenite Jews
Yemenite Jews
Yemenite Jews are those Jews who live, or whose recent ancestors lived, in Yemen . Between June 1949 and September 1950, the overwhelming majority of Yemen's Jewish population was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet...

 do not eat dairy foods on Shavuot.

In keeping with the observance of other Yom Tovs, there is both a night meal and a day meal on Shavuot. Meat is usually served at night and dairy is served either for the day meal or for a morning kiddush.

Among the explanations given in rabbinic literature for the consumption of dairy foods on this holiday are:
  • Before they received the Torah, the Israelites were not obligated to follow its laws, which include shechita
    Shechita
    Shechita is the ritual slaughter of mammals and birds according to Jewish dietary laws...

    (ritual slaughter of animals) and kashrut
    Kashrut
    Kashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...

    . Since all their meat pots and dishes now had to be made kosher before use, they opted to eat dairy foods.
  • The Torah is compared to milk by King Solomon
    Solomon
    Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

    , who wrote: "Like honey and milk, it lies under your tongue" (Song of Songs
    Song of songs
    Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, is a book of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. It may also refer to:In music:* Song of songs , the debut album by David and the Giants* A generic term for medleysPlays...

     4:11).
  • The gematria
    Gematria
    Gematria or gimatria is a system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase, in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other, or bear some relation to the number itself as it may apply to a person's age, the calendar year, or the like...

     of the Hebrew word chalav (חלב) is 40, corresponding to the 40 days and 40 nights that Moses
    Moses
    Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

     spent on Mount Sinai
    Mount Sinai
    Mount Sinai , also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa , Jabal Musa meaning "Moses' Mountain", is a mountain near Saint Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. A mountain called Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus in the Torah and the Bible as well as the Quran...

     before bringing down the Torah.
  • According to the Zohar
    Zohar
    The Zohar is the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah. It is a group of books including commentary on the mystical aspects of the Torah and scriptural interpretations as well as material on Mysticism, mythical cosmogony, and mystical psychology...

    , each day of the year correlates to one of the Torah's 365 negative commandments
    613 mitzvot
    The 613 commandments is a numbering of the statements and principles of law, ethics, and spiritual practice contained in the Torah or Five Books of Moses...

    . Shavuot corresponds to the commandment "Bring the first fruits of your land to the house of God your Lord; do not cook a kid in its mother's milk" (Exodus 34:26). Since the first day to bring Bikkurim (the first fruits) is Shavuot, the second half of the verse refers to the custom to eat two separate meals – one milk, one meat – on Shavuot.
  • The Psalmist
    Psalms
    The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

     calls Mount Sinai Har Gavnunim (הר גבננים, mountain of majestic peaks), which is etymologically similar to gevinah (גבינה, cheese).

Book of Ruth


There are five books in Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 that are known as Megillot (Hebrew: מגילות, "scrolls") and are publicly read in the synagogues on different Jewish holidays. The Book of Lamentations
Book of Lamentations
The Book of Lamentations ) is a poetic book of the Hebrew Bible composed by the Jewish prophet Jeremiah. It mourns the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in the 6th Century BCE....

, which details the destruction of the Holy Temple, is the reading for Tisha B'Av
Tisha B'Av
|Av]],") is an annual fast day in Judaism, named for the ninth day of the month of Av in the Hebrew calendar. The fast commemorates the destruction of both the First Temple and Second Temple in Jerusalem, which occurred about 655 years apart, but on the same Hebrew calendar date...

; the Book of Ecclesiastes, which touches on the ephemeralness of life, corresponds to Sukkot
Sukkot
Sukkot is a Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei . It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals Shalosh regalim on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.The holiday lasts seven days...

; the Book of Esther
Book of Esther
The Book of Esther is a book in the Ketuvim , the third section of the Jewish Tanakh and is part of the Christian Old Testament. The Book of Esther or the Megillah is the basis for the Jewish celebration of Purim...

 (Megillat Esther) retells the events of Purim
Purim
Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman, a story recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther .Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th...

; and the Song of Songs
Song of Solomon
The Song of Songs of Solomon, commonly referred to as Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, is a book of the Hebrew Bible—one of the megillot —found in the last section of the Tanakh, known as the Ketuvim...

, which echoes the themes of springtime and God's love for the Jewish people, is the reading for Passover.

The Book of Ruth
Book of Ruth
The Book of Ruth is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, or Old Testament. In the Jewish canon the Book of Ruth is included in the third division, or the Writings . In the Christian canon the Book of Ruth is placed between Judges and 1 Samuel...

 (מגילת רות, Megillat Ruth) corresponds to the holiday of Shavuot both in its descriptions of the barley and wheat harvest seasons and Ruth's desire to become a member of the Jewish people, who are defined by their acceptance of the Torah. Moreover, the lineage described at the end of the Book lists King David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 as Ruth's great-grandson. According to tradition, David was born and died on Shavuot.

Greenery


According to the Midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

, Mount Sinai suddenly blossomed with flowers in anticipation of the giving of the Torah on its summit. Greenery also figures in the story of the baby Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 being found among the bulrushes
Cyperus
Cyperus is a large genus of about 600 species of sedges, distributed throughout all continents in both tropical and temperate regions. They are annual or perennial plants, mostly aquatic and growing in still or slow-moving water up to 0.5 m deep. The species vary greatly in size, with small species...

 in a watertight cradle
Ark of bulrushes
The ark of bulrushes in which the infant Moses was laid is called in the Hebrew teiva, a word similar to the Egyptian teb, meaning "a chest". It is also the same word used for Noah's Ark....

  when he was three months old (Moses was born on 7 Adar and placed in the Nile River
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

 on 6 Sivan, the same day he later brought the Jewish nation to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah).

For these reasons, many Jewish families traditionally decorate their homes and synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

s with plants, flowers and leafy branches in honor of Shavuot. Some synagogues decorate the bimah
Bimah
A bimah A bimah A bimah (among Ashkenazim, derived from Hebrew בּמה , almemar (from Arabic al-minbar) or tebah (among Sephardim) is the elevated area or platform in a Jewish synagogue which is intended to serve the place where the person reading aloud from the Torah stands during the Torah reading...

 with a canopy of flowers and plants so that it resembles a chuppah
Chuppah
A chuppah , also huppah, chupah, or chuppa, is a canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony. It consists of a cloth or sheet, sometimes a tallit, stretched or supported over four poles, or sometimes manually held up by attendants to the ceremony. A chuppah symbolizes the...

, as Shavuot is mystically referred to as the day the matchmaker (Moses) brought the bride (the Jewish people) to the chuppah (Mount Sinai) to marry the bridegroom (God); the ketubbah (marriage contract) was the Torah. Some Eastern Sephardi communities actually read out a ketubbah between God and Israel as part of the service.

The Vilna Gaon
Vilna Gaon
Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, known as the Vilna Gaon or Elijah of Vilna and simply by his Hebrew acronym Gra or Elijah Ben Solomon, , was a Talmudist, halachist, kabbalist, and the foremost leader of non-hasidic Jewry of the past few centuries...

 cancelled the tradition of decorating with plants because it too closely resembles the Christian decorations for their holidays.

All-night Torah study


The practice of staying up all Shavuot night to study Torah – known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot – has its source in the Midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

, which relates that the night before the Torah was given, the Israelites retired early to be well-rested for the momentous day ahead. They overslept and Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 had to wake them up because God was already waiting on the mountaintop. To rectify this perceived flaw in the national character, many religious Jews stay up all night to learn Torah.

The custom of all-night Torah study goes back to 1533 when Rabbi Joseph Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch
Shulchan Aruch
The Shulchan Aruch also known as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most authoritative legal code of Judaism. It was authored in Safed, Israel, by Yosef Karo in 1563 and published in Venice two years later...

, then living in Ottoman Salonika, invited Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz
Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz
Shlomo ha-Levi Alkabetz, also spelt Alqabitz, Alqabes; was a rabbi, kabbalist and poet perhaps best known for his composition of the song Lecha Dodi; sources differ as to when he wrote it .- Biography :Alkabetz studied Torah under Rabbi Yosef Taitatzak...

 and other Kabbalistic
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

 colleagues to hold Shavuot-night study vigils for which they prepared for three days in advance, just as the Israelites had prepared for three days before the giving of the Torah. During one of those study sessions, an angel appeared and taught them Jewish law
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

.

Any subject may be studied on Shavuot night, although Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

, Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

 and Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 typically top the list. Men may learn alone or with a chavruta
Chavruta
Chavruta, also spelled chavrusa , is a traditional Rabbinic approach to Talmudic study in which a pair of students independently learn, discuss, and debate a shared text. It is a primary learning method in yeshivas and kollels, where students often engage regular study partners of similar knowledge...

(study partner), or attend late-night shiurim (lectures) and study groups. In some communities, nighttime learning programs are available for women.

In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of people finish off the nighttime study session by walking to the Western Wall
Western Wall
The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount...

 before dawn and joining the sunrise minyan
Minyan
A minyan in Judaism refers to the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations. According to many non-Orthodox streams of Judaism adult females count in the minyan....

 there. This practice began in 1967. One week before Shavuot of that year, the Israeli army recaptured the Old City in the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

, and on Shavuot day, the army opened the Western Wall to visitors. Over 200,000 Jews came to see and pray at the site that had been off-limits to them since 1948
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

. The custom of walking to the Western Wall on Shavuot has continued every year since.

Tikkun Leil Shavuot


In keeping with the custom of engaging in all-night Torah study, the Arizal
Isaac Luria
Isaac Luria , also called Yitzhak Ben Shlomo Ashkenazi acronym "The Ari" "Ari-Hakadosh", or "Arizal", meaning "The Lion", was a foremost rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in the Galilee region of Ottoman Palestine...

, a leading Kabbalist
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

 of the 16th century, arranged a special service for the evening of Shavuot. The Tikkun Leil Shavuot ("Rectification for Shavuot Night") consists of excerpts from the beginning and end of each of the 24 books of Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 (including the reading in full of several key sections such as the account of the days of creation, The Exodus
The Exodus
The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt described in the Hebrew Bible.Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness...

, the giving of the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

 and the Shema) and the 63 books of Mishnah. This is followed by the reading of Sefer Yetzirah
Sefer Yetzirah
Sefer Yetzirah is the title of the earliest extant book on Jewish esotericism, although some early commentators treated it as a treatise on mathematical and linguistic theory as opposed to Kabbalah...

, the 613 commandments as enumerated by Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

, and excerpts from the Zohar
Zohar
The Zohar is the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah. It is a group of books including commentary on the mystical aspects of the Torah and scriptural interpretations as well as material on Mysticism, mythical cosmogony, and mystical psychology...

, with opening and concluding prayers. The whole reading is divided into thirteen parts, after each of which a Kaddish di-Rabbanan is recited when the Tikkun is studied in a group of at least ten Jewish, Bar Mitzvahed men.

This service is printed in a special book, and is widely used in Eastern Sephardic, some German and Hasidic communities. There are similar books for the vigils before the seventh day of Pesach and Hosha'ana Rabbah
Hoshanah Rabbah
The seventh day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, 21st day of Tishrei, is known as Hoshana Rabbah . This day is marked by a special synagogue service, the Hoshana Rabbah, in which seven circuits are made by the worshippers with their lulav and etrog, while the congregation recites Hoshanot...

.

Spanish and Portuguese Jews
Spanish and Portuguese Jews
Spanish and Portuguese Jews are a distinctive sub-group of Sephardim who have their main ethnic origins within the Jewish communities of the Iberian peninsula and who shaped communities mainly in Western Europe and the Americas from the late 16th century on...

 do not observe this custom.

Kibbutz celebration



Due to its connection with the harvest, Shavuot is celebrated with special activities on Israeli kibbutz
Kibbutz
A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism...

im and moshav
Moshav
Moshav is a type of Israeli town or settlement, in particular a type of cooperative agricultural community of individual farms pioneered by the Labour Zionists during the second aliyah...

im. These agricultural settlements hold parades and special ceremonies to show off the fruits produced in their fields, in the manner of bikkurim. Argricultural machinery and farming equipment are also put on display, and the public is invited to participate in the festivities.

Confirmation ceremonies


In the 19th century, several Orthodox synagogues in Britain and Australia held confirmation ceremonies for 12-year old girls on Shavuot, a precursor to the modern Bat Mitvah. The early Reform
Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism refers to various beliefs, practices and organizations associated with the Reform Jewish movement in North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In general, it maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and should be compatible with participation in the...

 movement made Shavuot into a religious school graduation day. Today, Reform synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

s in North America typically hold confirmation ceremonies on Shavuot for students aged 16 to 18 who are completing their religious studies. The graduating class stands in front of an open ark
Ark (synagogue)
The Torah ark or ark in a synagogue is known in Hebrew as the Aron Kodesh by the Ashkenazim and as the Hekhál amongst most Sefardim. It is generally a receptacle, or ornamental closet, which contains each synagogue's Torah scrolls...

, recalling the standing of the Israelites at Mount Sinai
Biblical Mount Sinai
The Biblical Mount Sinai is the mountain at which the Book of Exodus states that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God...

 for the giving of the Torah.

Dates in dispute


Since the Torah does not specify the actual day on which Shavuot falls, differing interpretations of this date have arisen both in traditional and non-traditional Jewish circles. These discussions center around two ways of looking at Shavuot: the day it actually occurs (i.e., the day the Torah was given on Mount Sinai), and the day it occurs in relation to the Counting of the Omer (being the 50th day from the first day of the Counting).

Giving of the Torah


While most of the Talmudic Sages concur that the Torah was given on the sixth of Sivan; R. Jose holds that it was given on the seventh of that month. According to the classical timeline, the Israelites arrived at the wilderness of Sinai on the new moon and the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

 were given on the following Shabbat (i.e., Saturday). The question of whether the new moon fell on Sunday or Monday is undecided (Talmud, tractate Shabbat 86b). In practice, Shavuot is observed on the sixth day of Sivan in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and a second day is added in the Jewish diaspora (in keeping with a separate rabbinical ruling that applies to all biblical holidays, called Yom Tov Sheini Shebegaliyot, Second-Day Yom Tov in the Diaspora
Jewish diaspora
The Jewish diaspora is the English term used to describe the Galut גלות , or 'exile', of the Jews from the region of the Kingdom of Judah and Roman Iudaea and later emigration from wider Eretz Israel....

).

Counting of the Omer


The Torah states that the Omer offering (i.e., the first day of counting the Omer) is the first day of the barley harvest . It should begin "on the morrow after the Shabbat
Shabbat
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

", and continue to be counted for seven Sabbaths. . The Talmudic Sages determined that "Shabbat" here means a day of rest and refers to the first day of Passover. Thus, the counting of the Omer begins on the second day of Passover and continues for the next 49 days, or seven complete weeks, ending on the day before Shavuot.

According to this calculation, Shavuot will fall on the day of the week after that of the first day of Passover (e.g., if Passover starts on a Thursday, Shavuot will begin on a Friday).

Most secular scholarship, and the Karaites, as well as Catholics and the historical Sadducees
Sadducees
The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Ancient Israel during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BC through the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society...

 and Boethusians
Boethusians
The Boethusians were a Jewish sect closely related to, if not a development of, the Sadducees.-Origins according to the Talmud:The post-Talmudic work Avot de-Rabbi Natan gives the following origin of the schism between Sadducees and Boethusians: Antigonus of Sokho having taught the maxim, "Be not...

, dispute this interpretation. They infer the "Shabbat" referenced is the weekly Shabbat. Accordingly, Shavuot falls on the day after the weekly shabbat, counting from seven weeks since the day after the first shabbat during Pesach.

This interpretation was shared by the 2nd-century BCE author of the Book of Jubilees who was motivated by the priestly sabbatical solar calendar
Solar calendar
A solar calendar is a calendar whose dates indicate the position of the earth on its revolution around the sun .-Tropical solar calendars:...

 of the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, which was designed to have festivals and Sabbaths fall on the same day of the week every year. On this calendar (best known from the Book of Luminaries in 1 Enoch), Shavuot fell on the 15th of Sivan, a Sunday. The date was reckoned fifty days from the first Sabbath
Shabbat
Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

 after Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

 (i.e. from the 25th of Nisan). Thus, Jub. 1:1 claims that Moses ascended Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai , also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa , Jabal Musa meaning "Moses' Mountain", is a mountain near Saint Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. A mountain called Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus in the Torah and the Bible as well as the Quran...

 to receive the Torah "on the sixteenth day of the third month in the first year of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt".

In Jub. 6:15-22 and 44:1-5, the holiday is traced to the appearance of the first rainbow on the 15th of Sivan, the day on which God made his covenant with Noah.

Qumran
Qumran
Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank. It is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, near the Israeli settlement and kibbutz of Kalia...

 school Gabriele Boccaccini has suggested that the 1,290 and 1,335 days of point to the observance of Shavuot in a restored Israel, as reckoned by the priestly solar calendar. These durations are exactly 30 and 45 days longer than the years mentioned in and . The period of years amounts to 1,260 days in the priestly solar calendar because the equinoxes and solstices count as markers of the seasons rather than monthly days (1 En. 74:11, 75:1, 82:4). The blessings expected at the end of the 1,335 days pertain to the resurrection to "everlasting life" mentioned a few verses earlier , and this is the reward to those who refused to forsake the covenant unto death , while those who forsook the covenant face "everlasting contempt".

Boccaccini sees the years as ending at the spring equinox (equinoxes and solstices were important markers of the seasons in the solar calendar), to be followed by 30 days to complete the 1,290 days (the month of Passover), and an additional 45 days to reach the 15th of Sivan, the purported day of Shavuot. For those who refused to forsake the covenant, this would be the day the covenant would be renewed and the expected blessings would be realized.

The Jewish Encyclopedia
Jewish Encyclopedia
The Jewish Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia originally published in New York between 1901 and 1906 by Funk and Wagnalls. It contained over 15,000 articles in 12 volumes on the history and then-current state of Judaism and the Jews as of 1901...

 points to the similarities between the Christian and Jewish Pentecost
Pentecost
Pentecost is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and also later in the Christian liturgical year commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ after the Resurrection of Jesus...

, as an outpouring of the Spirit or the giving of the Law in seventy languages.

External links