Shavuot, the final festival in the spring cycle that began with Passover, is the holiday that celebrates the first harvest, the ripening of the first fruits, and most importantly, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai. In the Bible, Shavuot is called by various other names: Feast of Weeks, Pentecost and Feast of the Giving of the Law. This year, the festival begins on the evening of May 14th, 5773. It is one of the Lord’s Moedim or appointed times. When the children of Israel left Egypt, the journey to Mt. Sinai took 50 days and on the 50th day they received the Torah. For believers in Yeshua this is also significant because it is the event experienced by the Disciples when the Holy Spirit fell upon them. Also known as “Pentecost” (‘50’ in Greek) they were celebrating Shavuot on the Temple mount when the Holy Spirit came with a loud wind, and tongues of fire rested upon their heads. It was a symbolic re-enactment of Sinai, with additional significance: the Lord was signifying the inauguration of the New Covenant spoken of by the Prophet Jeremiah, “And I will write my Torah upon your hearts...” (Jer. 31).
Judaism has many beautiful traditions by which we can mark this occasion. One of them is called Tikkun Leil Shavuot and is the custom of staying up the entire night (leil) of Shavuot studying with the community in order to relive the experience of standing at Sinai. And since Torah is the way to self-perfection, the Shavuot night learning is called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which means "an act of self-perfection on the night of Shavuot." It is traditional on Shavuot to stay up all night learning Torah. Why? Because this is a declaration of priority: Torah is worth staying up all night for!! Torah study is regarded as the most important of all mitzvot, because it opens the door for observance of the other mitzvot. Says the Talmud (Shabbat 127a): "The study of Torah is equal to the sum total of all other mitzvot.
The traditional Scripture reading for Shavuot is the Book of Ruth. Why? Shavuot is also known as Chag Hakatzir - The Harvest Festival. The Book of Ruth gives us a picture of the harvest, and how the poor were treated in the harvest season with sympathy and love. Also Ruth was a convert to Judaism, willingly entering a covenant with God through the acceptance of His Torah. On Shavuot, the Jewish people en masse entered this covenant with G-d by willingly accepting His Torah.
It is customary to eat Dairy foods on Shavuot. Popular dishes are Blintzes and Kugel and sweets like cheesecake and seasonal fruits. One reason is that Shavuot is linked to the Exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land, and it is written "From the misery of Egypt to a country flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:8-17). Another wonderful tradition is using the days as we count the Omer to refine “our steps” or purpose to order our lives & hearts as we approach the Day. As the children of Israel were refined as they approached Sinai, so too we can use this time to refine our characters. Chag Shavuot Sameach!!