Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people, and occurs on the 50th day after the 49 days of counting the Omer. It is a Jewish festival which falls early in the Jewish month of Sivan.
Shavuot 2020 begins on the evening of May 28 and ends in the evening of May 30.
The festival, which is observed for one day in Israel and two days by religious Jews in the diaspora, has two main purposes:
- To commemorate the Jews receiving the Torah from God at Mount Sinai, after having been redeemed from Egypt.
- To mark the end of the grain harvest, and Jews would bring Bikurim, the first fruits, to the Temple in Jerusalem, as a gift to God.
History of Shavuot:
Shavuot has its origins in the ancient mid-summer harvest celebrations of the Canaanites, the ancient people from which Israelite society sprang during the Bronze Age. These early religions’ celebrations, in which revelers rejoiced in the harvesting of wheat, were local affairs probably celebrated in communal threshing grounds, where the wheat was separated from the chaff, and other cultic sites.
All that started to change in the 7th and 8th centuries BCE, when the Jerusalem monarchy and priesthood consolidated power, bringing formerly separate tribes under the helm of one ruler. As part of this program, they co-opted these local affairs and supplanted them by unified rites that could only be performed in the Temple in Jerusalem. This program would create a sense of peoplehood for the people of the land and enrich the coffers of both palace and Temple.
How to celebrate Shavuot?
- All men, women, and children should hear the reading of the Ten Commandments on the first day of Shavuot.
- It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot.
- Women and girls light holiday candles to usher in the holiday, on both the first and second evenings of the holidays.
- 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.
- On the second day of Shavuot, the Yizkor memorial service is recited.
- 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.
Recipes for Shavuot:
Strawberry Rhubarb Blintzes
Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake on a Stick