שבועות

SHAVUOT

שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) is the Hebrew word for “weeks” and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the תּוֹרָה (Torah) at Mount Sinai, which occurs seven weeks after Passover. שָׁבוּעוֹת‎  (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, שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) was a pilgrimage festival during which Israelites brought crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, it is a celebration of תּוֹרָה (Torah), education, and actively choosing to participate in Jewish life.

Story

Many Jews believe that something unique and sacred happened at Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) is the anniversary of that special day. It was on שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) that God revealed Godself to the Israelites and gave us the תּוֹרָה (Torah). Every year on the holiday of שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) we renew our acceptance of God's gift, and God “re-gives” the תּוֹרָה (Torah).

The word שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot).

The giving of the תּוֹרָה (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 God and the Jewish people. שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) also means “oaths” or "promises," for on this day God promised to always love us, and we in turn pledged to always be loyal.

In ancient times, two wheat loaves would be offered in the Holy Temple. It was also at this time that people would begin to bring bikkurim, their first and choicest fruits, to thank God for Israel’s bounty.

Season

The holiday of שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) is a two-day holiday, beginning at sundown of the 5th of Sivan and lasting until nightfall of the 7th of Sivan. (In Israel and in Reform congregations it is a one-day holiday, ending at nightfall of the 6th of Sivan.)

Visiting the Kotel (the Western Wall) is a very special experience on שָׁבוּעוֹת‎(Shavuot) as you can imagine by this picture of thousands of Jews celebrating in Jerusalem.

Key Words

weeks or promises - שָׁבוּעוֹת‎
a sheaf of wheat - עוֹמֵר
first fruits - בִּיקוּרִים

teaching  - תּוֹרָה
(also the Five Books of Moses)
remember - יִזְכֹּר
 

Prayers

Each night of שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) we light candles and sing this בְּרָכָה  (blessing).

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר  קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל יוֹם טוֹב.

Baruch Ata ADONAI Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav,

v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Yom Tov.

Blessed are You, ADONAI, our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through the commandments and commands us to kindle the festival lights.

 

On the first night of שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) we add this special blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם ֿ שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

Baruch Ata ADONAI Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, she'he'che'yanu v'ki'yemanu v'higianu

lazman hazeh.

Blessed are you, ADONAI, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has given us life, sustained us, and helped us to reach this moment.

Rituals

To celebrate שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot): 

  • We light holiday candles to usher in the holiday, on both the first and second evenings

  • It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot)

  • Many people go to the synagogue on the first day of שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments

  • As on other holidays, special meals are eaten, and lots of people don't work

  • It is customary to eat dairy foods on שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot) . Here's a great blintz recipe

  • On the second day of שָׁבוּעוֹת‎ (Shavuot), the Yizkor memorial service is recited

  • We read the Book of Ruth in synagogue

© 2016 by Rabbi David Paskin

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