Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shavuot: Celebration of Revelation

Shavuot (Hebrew: שבועות‎, lit. "Weeks") is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June). Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire Israelite nation assembled at Mount Sinai, although the association between the giving of the Torah and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text. The holiday is one of the  three Biblical pilgrimage festivals. 

The date of Shavuot is directly linked to that of Passover. The Torah mandates the seven-week Counting of the Omer, beginning on the second day of Passover and immediately followed by Shavuot. This counting of days and weeks is understood to express anticipation and desire for the Giving of the Torah. On Passover, the Jewish people were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Shavuot they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God.
In the Bible, Shavuot is called the Festival of Weeks (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10); Festival of Reaping (Exodus 23:16), and Day of the First Fruits (Numbers 28:26). The Mishnah and Talmud refer to Shavuot as Atzeret: a solemn assembly, as it provides closure for the festival activities during and following the holiday of Passover. Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Hellenistic Greeks gave it the name Pentecost (πεντηκοστή, "fiftieth day").

One thing that Shavuot is known for is being little-known. It is postulated that among other reasons, its obscurity is related to the heaviness of the Torah itself, with its numerous positive commandments and negative commandments.

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