We know that Shavuot commemorates spring harvest and the giving of the Torah, but it helps to go over the finer details to get a better understanding of this Jewish holiday. Especially, since there are specific traditions that tie into the commemoration of Shavuot. The senior care team at the JCHC has compiled information about Shavuot that addresses what the holiday represents, when it occurs typically, and most importantly, how to celebrate!
What is Shavuot?
Shavuot, also known as the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major Jewish festivals that has major significance both historically and agriculturally. (The other two festivals are Passover and Sukkot.) In the agricultural sense, Shavuot commemorates the time when the first fruits of spring were harvested and brought to the Temple, also known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, also referred to as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah). Another name for this holiday is Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day of the year. However, it’s important to note that Shavuot has no particular relation to the Christian holiday of Pentecost, which occurs 50 days afterwards.
When is Shavuot?
There is no set calendar date for Shavuot. The date changes each year since it is a counting from Passover. This is also due to the fact that the length of the months used to be variable, determined by observation. There are two new moons between Passover and Shavuot. Shavuot could occur on the 5th or 6th of Sivan. However, now that we have a mathematically determined calendar, and the months between Passover and Shavuot do not change length, Shavuot is always on the 6th of Sivan.
How to Celebrate Shavuot
Known as a time of great anticipation, we count each of the days leading up to Shavuot. From the second day of Passover to the day before Shavuot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name of the festival. The counting honors the important connection between Passover and Shavuot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage. It is noteworthy that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given during the time of Shavuot.
Another customary way to celebrate is to gather and eat a dairy meal at least once during Shavuot. Why we do this is a little bit divided. Some feel it refers to the promise regarding the land of Israel, a land flowing with “milk and honey.” Others feel that dairy is only eaten due to Torah dietary laws. Either way, we enjoy getting together with family and friends to eat delicious food. We also celebrate Shavuot by going to synagogue and staying up all night to read the Book of Ruth.
Jewish Traditions at JCHC in New Jersey
If you’d like to know more about how we are commemorating Shavuot at the JCHC, or if you have any other questions regarding our assisted living services in NJ, please contact us today. We’d love to hear from you.