Nowhere in the Bible itself is any link made between the revelation at Sinai and a commemorative day. Shavuot was originally an agriculural festival and marked the forty-ninth day of 'the counting of the omer' (sheaf of barley), when wheat was ready to be harvested. The 'omer' was a harvest offering that was formerly brought to the Temple (Jerusalem). It was a one-day festival during which two loaves of leavened bread were brought to the Temple as an offering of thanks. It marked a new agricultural season, when the first fruits of the land were brought to the Temple. After the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the focus of Shavuot changed significantly, as Jews could no longer observe the agricultural rites in the Temple.
|Omer calendar, Amsterdam mid 18th century. Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama.|
|Synagogue with Shavuot decoration.Photo thanks to Finish Israel on Twitter|
Cut-paper decorations of trees and flowers, particularly roses ,have been popular on this holiday. Shavuot's special flower is the rose because of a play on words in the Book of Esther. Esther and her cousin Mordechai came from the Persian town of Sushan, and the Hebrew word for rose is שׁוֹשַׁנָה shoshan.
|instagram Ticia Verveer|
- Women and girls light candles on the first evening to usher in the holiday.
- All men, women and children should go on the first day of Shavuot to the synagogue to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments.
- It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot.
- It is customary to eat dairy foods,from traditional cheese blintzes to cheesecake and quiches. According to legend, when the Israelites received the laws of kashrut (kosher practices) at Sinai, they realized that not all their cooking pots were kosher, so they ate uncooked dairy foods instead. Another view compares the sweetness of Torah to "milk and honey".
- As on other holidays, special meals are eaten, and no “work” may be performed.
- Shavuot's second day is known as the festival of matnat yad ("the day of giving").A special prayer is recited on behalf of those who contribute to charity.
|Thanks to Jewish Community Center Shimon and Sara Birnbaum|
|homemade cheesecakeTicia Verveer|