The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot it is customary to renew the acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah.
The word Shavuot means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot, the Counting of the Omer.
The giving of the Torah was a far-reaching spiritual event—one that touched the essence of the G-dly soul for all times. The Sages have compared it to a wedding between G‑d and His Israelite people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day G‑d swore eternal devotion to His chosen people, and we in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him.
In ancient times, two wheat loaves would be offered in Holy Temple. 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.
On this day G‑d swore eternal devotion to His Chosen, and all Israel pledged everlasting loyalty to Him.
The holiday of 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 it is a one-day holiday, ending at nightfall of the 6th of Sivan.)
- Women and girls light holiday candles to usher in the holiday, on both the first and second evenings of the holidays.
- It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot.
- As on other holidays, special meals are eaten, and no “work” may be performed.
- It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. Among other reasons, this commemorates the fact that upon receiving the Torah, including the kosher laws, the Jewish people could not cook meat in their pots, which had yet to be rendered kosher.
- Some communities read the Book of Ruth publicly, as King David—whose passing occurred on this day—was a descendant of Ruth the Moabite. Additionally, some of the events in Ruth take place around this festival.