Shavuot literally means "Weeks", the name of the holiday refers to the fact that it takes place 7 weeks
. Shavuot was traditionally the Israelite harvest
festival, at which time the first wheat
s and date
s to ripen were brought to Jerusalem
as offerings to God. The holiday also celebrates the anniversary of the Israelites receiving the Torah
from God at Mount Sinai
. The holiday is two days long, but only one day long within the modern day state of Israel
Names for the holiday:
- Chag Shavuot - The Holiday of Weeks
- Z'man Matan Torateinu - The Time of the Giving of our Torah
- Chag HaBikkurim - The Holiday of the First Fruits
- Atzeret - The Holiday of "Being Held Back" (close to God, as an extension of the Passover celebration)
- Chag HaKatzir - The Holiday of the Cutting of the Crop
s, and the legend
s behind them:
*This extension was tacked onto all one-day Jewish holidays in the time of the Sanhedrin. Before the establishment of a uniform astrologically dependable calendar, the Sanhdrin declared the beginning of each month, based on the testimony of two witnesses who had independantly seen the new moon. The dates of the holidays were calculated based on the date of the beginning of each month. But Jews living far away from the Sanhedrin would not recieve messengers reporting the beginning of a new month in time to know the holiday dates with certainty, and so they began to keep one-day holidays for two days, in order to know that they'd get at least one day right.
- Tikkun Leyl Shavuot - Because the Israelites overslept on the morning of the day that God was to give them the Torah, and still feel guilt over the disrespect, many people stay awake on the first night of the holiday and learn Torah all night.
- Eating dairy foods, e.g. blintzes, cheesecake - Among the commandments that the Jews first recieved on Shavuot were the laws of kashrut, which stated that animals could not be slaughtered on the Sabbath. The day of the week that the Torah was given was a Sabbath, and so no animals could be killed and eaten that day.
- Decorating homes and synagogues with flowers and branches - Commemorates Mount Sinai, which was small and generally not considered worthy to be the site of the giving of the Torah, until God decorated it with last-minute foliage growth