Updated: Jun 15, 2020
What is Shavuot (שָׁבוּעוֹת)?
Shavuot is a Jewish holiday , and one of the Three Pilgrimage (Shloshet ha'regalim - שׁלוֹשֵׁת הַרֵגָלִים) Festivals along with Passover (פֶּסַח) and Sukkot (סוּכּוֹת).
What are we celebrating?
It celebrates the completion of the seven week Omer (עוֹמֵר) counting period between Passover and Shavuot, and occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (סִיוָן).
What is the meaning of Shavuot?
The word “Shavuot” שָׁבוּעוֹת literally means - "Weeks" (after the 7 weeks counting period). The Torah (תוֹרַה) was given by God to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai (Har Sinai - הַר סִינַי) more than 3,300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of this gift (matana - מָתַנַה). This is why this Holiday is also called - חַג מָתַן תוֹרַה (c'hag matan torah), the Torah Giving Holiday. The giving of the Torah was a very spiritual event and is compared to a wedding between God and the Jewish people. When the Torah was given on Mount Sinai , God swore eternal devotion to the Jewish people, and we pledged everlasting loyalty to him in return.
In ancient times the people would bring “בִּיכּוּרִים” (Bikkurim) - from the word “בֵּכוֹר” (Bec'hor) which means the first born. Bikkurim are the first fruits of the year from the seven species in which the Land of Israel was blessed: חִיטַה - wheat (c'hita) שֵׂעוֹרַה - Barley (seora) גֶפֶן - grapes (gefen) תְאֵנָה - figs (te'ena) רִימוֹן - Pomegranates (rimon) זַיִת - olives (zait) תָמָר - dates (tamar)
It is a tradition to decorate the house with these ״First Born" fruits
Customs & Rituals (מִנְהָגִים וְטְקָסִים)
So how do we actually celebrate this holiday / Shavuot Customs (מִנְהָגִים - minhagim) and Rituals (טְקָסִים - tkasim): 1. It is customary to eat dairy foods (ma'ac'hley c'halav - מַאֲכָלֵי חָלַב) and honey (dvash - דְבַשׁ) on Shavuot 2. Some communities read the Book of Ruth publicly 3. Some have the custom to decorate their homes (and Synagogues) with flowers (prac'him - פְּרָחִים) and sweet-smelling plants in advance of Shavuot. 4. On the eve of the holiday, people stay awake and learn Torah in the so-called "Night Correction" (Tikkun Leil - תִיקוֹן לֵיל) Shavuot, according to tradition, the Israelis slept long and did not wake up at the time to receive the Torah, and Moses had to go through and wake them up, and as a correction it was customary to learn all night and be awake in the morning to be ready to receive the Torah. 5. An ancient practice among North African Jews was to pour water on one another on Shavuot. There were even those who believed that whoever was sprinkled with water would not be harmed throughout the year.
Happy Shavuot Holiday, חַג שָׁבוּעוֹת שַׂמֵחַ (c'hag Shavuot sameac'h) to you and your families, and don’t forget to enjoy your sweet and salty dairy foods :)