Shavuot is the Hebrew word for “weeks” and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which occurs seven weeks after Passover. Shavuot, like many other Jewish holidays, began as an ancient agricultural festival that marked the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. In ancient times, Shavuot was a pilgrimage festival during which Israelites brought crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, it is a celebration of Torah, education, and actively choosing to participate in Jewish life.
Shavuot, also known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, dates from biblical times. The Torah tells us it took precisely 49 days for our ancestors to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai where they received the Torah. Thus, Leviticus 23:21 commands: “And you shall proclaim that day (the fiftieth day) to be a holy convocation!” The name Shavuot, “weeks,” then symbolizes the completion of a seven-week journey.
Special customs on Shavuot are the reading of the Book of Ruth, which reminds us that we, too can find a continual source of blessing in our tradition. Traditionally, dairy dishes are served on this holiday to symbolize the sweetness of the Torah, as well as the “land of milk and honey.”
This year (5779 or 2019), Shavuot begins at sundown on June 8 and continues through June 9 with an 11:00 am Festival Morning Service with Yizkor.
Please visit the URJ Shavuot Page for more information, recipes, and family activities to help celebrate the holiday!