Shavuot is the day the Torah was given — celebrating the supernatural encounter between God and the Israelites at Mount Sinai, an event which changed mankind forever. Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai and is also the Festival of the First Fruits or the Feast of the Weeks. Every Jewish holiday falls on a specific day of the month, with one exception: Shavuot, the day on which we received the Torah. Aish says:
Shavuot is always the 50th day following the beginning of Passover. Under the essential Jewish calendar in which the rabbinical court determined the beginning of a month through witnesses who saw the new moon, it could technically fall on any one of three dates since the number of days in a Jewish month could vary from year to year.
The name Shavuot alludes to its independence from the standard calendar. The name means “weeks,” demonstrating how the holiday marks the culmination of
seven weeks regardless of the date.
What is the essence of that dateless day? Hints to the answer lie within the process that leads to Shavuot, the book we read on Shavuot, and the number 50 itself.
The key to understanding Shavuot lies within the process that leads up to it. We start counting the days from our exodus from Egypt, our birth as a people, and continue to count until Shavuot, the 50th day. That count marks a period of national metamorphosis. The Jewish people had been so entrenched in Egypt that the Torah described the Exodus as the extraction of one nation from amidst another. As a child just born, we were in our spiritual infancy and in just 50 days we achieved the lofty stature that enabled us to receive the Torah. Our count begins with a simple sacrifice of barley, food regarded as animal fodder. It culminates with a special sacrifice of the finest bread, human food, signifying our national arrival at a new level of existence.
The synagogue and home are decorated with flowers, plants and fruits. Dairy foods such as cheesecake and blintzes (which represent the shape of the Torah) are traditionally served. Shavuot, which means “weeks”, refers to the timing of the festival which is held exactly 7 weeks after Passover.
Click for some delicious recipes for Shavuot.
Who did God give the Torah to at Mount Sinai? Moses, right?
According to the Torah, all of the Israelites heard God speak at Mount Sinai. He appeared to everyone, approximately 3 million people and this is mentioned several times in the Torah.
[Moses told the Israelites]: ‘Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld. Do not remove this memory from your heart all the days of your life. Teach your children and your children’s children about the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horev [Mount Sinai]…
God spoke to you from the midst of the fire, you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told you of His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets.’ (Deut.4:9-13)
‘You have been shown in order to know that God, He is the Supreme Being. There is none besides Him. From heaven he let you hear His voice in order to teach you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words amid the fire.’ (Deut. 4:32-36)
Moses called all of Israel and said to them: ‘Hear, O Israel, the decrees and the ordinances that I speak in your ears today — learn them, and be careful to perform them. The Lord your God sealed a covenant with us at Horev [Mount Sinai]. Not with our forefathers did God seal this covenant, but with us — we who are here, all of us alive today. Face to face did God speak with you on the mountain from amid the fire.’ (Deut. 5:1-4)
Today begins the two day holiday of Shavuot (or Shavuos in the Ashkenazic pronunciation).
It is the anniversary and celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai to the Jewish people more than 3,319 years ago. It is a time of rededication and commitment to learning Torah.
For lots more about Shavuot, go to http://www.aish.com/holidays/shavuot/default.asp