Shavuot: A Jewish vacation of restoring dedication to God

Shavuot: A Jewish vacation of restoring dedication to God

(The Discussion) — The celebration of Shavuot, noted this year on June 5 and also 6, commemorates the scriptural tale of God disclosing Torah — Jewish bibles and also mentors — to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. This present, and also the awareness of Torah’s concepts, goes to the core of the Jews’ connection with God, described as the “agreement.”

Shavuot has deeply agricultural origins. As a scholar of early Rabbinic Judaism, I understand that the vacation has actually progressed considerably over the centuries, as has Judaism itself. Today, instead of mainly noting the harvest, Shavuot awareness moves the Jewish area back to Sinai, to symbolically experience the wonder of discovery and also directly recommit to the covenant.

Old origins

In the Hebrew Scriptures, Shavuot notes the harvest of the very first summer season grain. Each Passover, which is well known midspring, the Israelites brought a sheaf of the earliest post-winter barley harvest to the Jerusalem Holy place. Fifty days later, on Shavuot, they brought the very first of the summer season wheat harvest, which they offered as an offering to God.


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In Hebrew, words “Shavuot” implies “weeks,” describing the 7 weeks in between Passover and also Shavuot. The 49 days in between are a duration called “The Counting of the Omer.”

Rabbi Laura Geller holds the Torah in a synagogue in Beverly Hills, The Golden State, as she goes over Shavuot.
Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Passover and also Shavuot hence are connected as vacations that, in the Scriptures, said thanks to God for the harvests that maintained individuals year to year. Jewish bibles describe Shavuot as the Celebration of the Harvest, “Chag Ha-Katzir,” and also Day of First Fruits, “Yom Ha-Bikkurim.” In contemporary times, synagogue havens are decorated on Shavuot with plant, baskets of fruit or various other generate that stand for the bounty of the land and also the magnificent true blessing that aids it expand.

A vacation changed

However Shavuot slowly progressed, as did other Jewish practices, after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in advertisement 70. This significant occasion suggested an end to pet sacrifices and also farming offerings. In their area, Jews paid boosted interest to the awareness and also research study of Torah.

Ever Since, Shavuot has actually handled brand-new importance, based upon its timing in the Jewish schedule. Passover, 49 days in the past, commemorates the Jews’ deliverance from slavery. According to bible, God provided Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai not long after their retreat from Egypt. As a result, individuals visualize that the checking in between Passover and also Shavuot stands for the Jewish individuals’s development from enslavement to flexibility, from Egypt to Sinai – towards expertise of God that is disclosed via the research study and also awareness of Torah.

Externally, these vacations note single occasions. However Shavuot reframes them to stand for a continuous honest dedication. The petitions and also routines of Passover stress God’s wish that no one be oppressed. 7 weeks later on, at Shavuot, the Jewish individuals recommit themselves to Torah’s disclosed concepts and also techniques – customs that Jews are urged to utilize to oppose fascism and also develop a far better globe.

In this context, the 49-day Counting of the Omer results in an increased representation on Jews’ obligations in a problematic globe. To urge severe consideration, throughout the checking, Jews that are generally watchful do not schedule weddings or various other wonderful events and also do not take part in tasks that could sidetrack from the deep function of this spiritual time.

Progressively today, programs of everyday representation and also reflection have actually been established to transform the Counting of the Omer right into a seven-week time of meditation and personal spirituality.

All-night party

When Shavuot gets here, the area collects in prayer, that includes the analysis of the Scriptures’s Sinai story and also 10 Rules. While the Rules read, the churchgoers stands to approve the agreement, equally as bible claims the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. To increase this symbolic reaffirmation, some churchgoers prepare wedding contracts that visualize the Jewish individuals and also God as partners, equally dedicated to the worth of “Tikkun Olam,” or fixing the globe.

Young boys walk under a canopy as they clutch Torah scrolls.

Ultra Orthodox kids march with Torah scrolls in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim area throughout Shavuot events.
Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

One gorgeous component of public Shavuot prayer is shouting the scriptural Book of Ruth. Ruth was a lady from the old area of Moab that left her very own country and also homeland to sign up with individuals of Israel, and also is thought of today as the very first transform to Judaism. Her tale matters since it occurs in the harvest period and also, maybe, since Ruth was a great-grandmother to the Jewish hero King David, that tale claims died on Shavuot. And also as a transform, Ruth voluntarily tackled the commitments laid out for Jews in Torah – equally as all Jews restore their agreement with God on Shavuot.

An additional Shavuot custom is consuming dairy products foods, such as blintzes and also cheesecake. The origins of this custom are not clear, and also lots of varied factors have actually been recommended. Some claim consuming milk items mirrors the scriptural summary of Israel as a land flowing with milk and honey, or that the Israelites, when they obtained the discovery at Sinai, resembled spiritual babies. Whatever the factor, the method provides Shavuot a unique cooking experience.

In this black and white photo, an elderly woman and young boy tie tree branches to a post as decoration.

Esther Zolkowitz, 90, passes eco-friendly branches imported from Israel to 7-year-old Allen Mayer as they enhance a synagogue for Shavuot in 1952.
Bettmann/Bettmann via Getty Images

Some 600 years earlier, Jewish mystics in Safed, a hilltop town in Israel, established a custom-made of keeping up late on Shavuot eve to examine Torah, emphasizing their dedication to spiritual knowing. These research study sessions, called “Tikkun Leil Shavuot,” are today a main component of Shavuot awareness.

A Tikkun Leil Shavuot could go all evening and also wrap up when it is time for early morning petitions. Or it could proceed till twelve o’clock at night, recognized by the mystics to be a particularly auspicious time for getting in touch with God. These occasions have actually progressed to supply something for everybody, from well-read grownups to schoolchildren.


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Bringing the area with each other to examine, these events highlight what is essential regarding Shavuot. In Judaism, area, Torah and also the agreement with God develop a globe of definition and also function. The vacation is a tip that in life, as in research study, individuals do not go it alone.

Exodus 24 instructs that when God disclosed Torah at Sinai, the Jewish individuals claimed, “All that the Lord has actually talked, we will certainly do and also we will certainly pay attention!” This year, on June 5 and also 6, they will certainly make that very same declaration once more.

(Alan Avery-Peck is the Kraft-Hiatt Teacher in Judaic research studies and also the University of the Holy Cross. The sights shared in this discourse do not always show those of Religious beliefs Information Solution.)