Shavuot, also spelled as Shavuos is a Jewish holiday, which is celebrated on the sixth day of Sivan in the Hebrew calendar (May/June). Torah mandates Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuos as the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals or shalosh regalim. On Shavuos, God gave the Torah to the Jewish nation at Mount Sinai. This day also marks the conclusion of the Counting of Omer.
The date of occurrence of Shavuot is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah unlike the Passover and Sukkot. Shavuot history is directly linked to Passover. Shavuot is the day of culmination of the Counting of Omer, a 49-day (seven week) counting period starting from the second day of Passover, as mandated by Torah. This counting period is the period of anticipation for the Giving of the Torah. The Passover festival marks the liberation of the Jewish people from the slavery of the Pharaoh. On Shavuot, God gave them the Torah and they became a Jewish Nation committed to the service of God.
Shavuot – A Harvest Festival
When researching Shavuot history you will find that it is fundamentally an agricultural festival and is connected to the season of grain harvest in Israel. Shavuos is also called by the name of Harvest festival and the First Fruits (Bikkuram) Festival. On Shavuot, the Bikkuram, the first fruits of the seven species for which Israel are praised (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates) and the first-born of the flocks were offered to the Holy Temple.
Shavuot history shows a connection with the Biblical Book of Ruth. The story is of Ruth and Moabite joining the Jews. The lineage described at the end of the book lists King David as Ruth s great grandson. According to the tradition, King David is said to have born and died on Shavuot.
Abstention from work, special prayer services and holiday meals are the three mitzvots of Shavuos. As such, there are no prescribed mirzvot (Torah Commandments) for Shavuot. But Shavuos is characterized by minhagim (customs) because this day signifies the continuance and preservation of Jewish religion.
The Customs Of Shavuot
The Night Prayers
On Shavuos, God gave the Torah to the Jewish nation. Thus it is a custom to learn Torah all night long in the synagogue to prepare oneself to receive the Torah.
Reading The Book Of Ruth
On the day of Shavuos, the Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue along with various liturgical songs related to the excerpts of Torah.
Eating Dairy Food
The root of this custom is unclear but a sumptuous meal consisting of dairy products like cheesecake, ice-cream and cheese filled blintzes are traditionally served on Shavuot.
Shavuos is a time for decoration. According to Midrash, Mount Sinai unexpectedly blossomed with flowers in anticipation of reception of the Torah. So traditionally the Jewish families adorn the synagogue and their homes with flowers, leaves and plants.
Thus, Shavuot history shows how this celebration is a key festival and a bejeweled holiday of the Jewish nation.