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Shavuot

Shavuot 2020 will begin in the evening of Saturday, June 4 and ends in the evening of Monday, June 6.

What is Shavuot?

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

The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai on Shavuot more than 3,300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “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 G‑d and the Jewish people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day G‑d 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 G‑d for Israel’s bounty.

Shavuot eve (Erev Shavuot)

Shabbat, Sivan 5—June 4

 

It is customary to decorate synagogues and homes with flowers and boughs. All decorations must be done on Friday before the onset of Shabbat.

The holiday of Shavuot begins tonight.

After Shabbat has ended, women and girls light candles tonight to usher in the holiday. 

After the holiday evening prayers, a festive holiday meal, complete with the recitation of the holiday kiddush, is enjoyed.

On this night it is customary to remain awake and study Torah until dawn.

First day of Shavuot

Sunday, Sivan 6—June 5
Torah reading: Exodus 19:1–20:23; Numbers 28:26–31
Haftorah: Ezekiel 1:1–28; 3:12

Reading of the Ten Commandments

 

All men, women and children should go to the synagogue to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, encouraged the bringing of even the youngest of children to the reading of the Ten Commandments in the synagogue on Shavuot. This is in commemoration of the Jewish people declaring: “Our children are our guarantors [that we will keep the Torah].” This, the Midrash states, was the only guarantee acceptable to G‑d.

The priests bless the congregation with the Priestly Blessing during the Musaf prayer.

Many communities chant the Akdamut poem before the reading of the Torah.

Kiddush is recited, and a holiday meal follows.

It is customary to eat dairy foods today. 

Candle-lighting, from a pre-existing flame, before nightfall.

In some communities, whoever will say yizkor tomorrow lights a yahrtzeit candle tonight, also from a pre-existing flame.

After the holiday evening prayers, a festive holiday meal, complete with the recitation of the holiday kiddush, is again enjoyed.

Second day of Shavuot

Monday, Sivan 7—June 6
Torah reading: Deuteronomy 15:19–16:17; Numbers 28:26–31
Haftarah: Habakkuk 2:20–3:19

 

The Yizkor memorial service is recited (and charity is pledged) for the souls of departed loved ones.

The priests bless the congregation with the Priestly Blessing during the Musaf prayer.

Kiddush is recited, and a holiday meal follows.

Some communities have the custom to read the Book of Ruth on the second day of Shavuot.

The holiday ends tonight at nightfall.

How is Shavuot Celebrated?

Shavuot is observed by abstaining from work and attending synagogue services. A few special readings are recited: a liturgical poem called Akdamut, which emphasizes the greatness of G-d; the Book of Ruth, because the story highlights one woman’s choice to join the Jewish people and accept the Torah; and the Ten Commandments, in honor of the revelation of the Torah. It is also customary to study Torah all night; this practice is called Tikkun Leil Shavuot.

Ruth made famous the phrase, “For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your G-d will be my G-d.” The story of Ruth teaches us that unconditional love often requires sacrifice. Ruth makes a difficult choice, and her kindness is rewarded in the end. The message is that G-d blesses those who are good and merciful.

What Kinds of Foods are Eaten on Shavuot? 

Traditional holiday meals on Shavuot center around dairy foods. Milk is considered to be a symbol of the Torah, which nourishes the people directly, as milk does for a baby.

There could be a number of reasons for the association of dairy with Shavuot. There is a verse in the Song of Solomon (4:11) which says that the Torah is like “milk and honey under your tongue,” which might indicate a connection between the Torah-centric holiday and dairy foods.

Some also believe that because the Israelites had not yet received the kosher laws, they had prepared foods on the first Shavuot that did not follow kashrut. When they received the Torah, they read the new laws of kashrut and realized their meat dishes were not kosher, in accordance with G-d’s will– so they opted to eat dairy dishes only. The Hebrew word chalav (milk) has a numerical value of 40, which corresponds with the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah.

Still others say that Shavuot occurs during the fertile spring period, when animal mothers produce lots of fresh milk. Whatever the reason, dairy foods are often consumed on Shavuot.

Chag Sameach!

Mon, October 3 2022 8 Tishrei 5783