The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah.
The word Shavuot means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot.
The giving of the Torah was a far-reaching spiritual event—one that touched the essence of the Jewish soul for all times. Our sages have compared it to a wedding between G‑d and the Jewish people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day G‑d swore eternal devotion to us, and we in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him.
In ancient times, two wheat loaves would be offered in Holy Temple. It was also at this time that people would begin to bring bikkurim, their first and choicest fruits, to thank G‑d for Israel’s bounty.
On this day G‑d swore eternal devotion to us, and we pledged everlasting loyalty to Him
The holiday of Shavuot is a two-day holiday, beginning at sundown of the 5th of Sivan and lasting until nightfall of the 7th of Sivan. (In Israel it is a one-day holiday, ending at nightfall of the 6th of Sivan.)
- Women and girls light holiday candles to usher in the holiday, on both the first and second evenings of the holidays.
- It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot.
- All men, women and children should go to the synagogue on the first day of Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments.
- As on other holidays, special meals are eaten, and no “work” may be performed.
- It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. Among other reasons, this commemorates the fact that upon receiving the Torah, including the kosher laws, the Jewish people could not cook meat in their pots, which had yet to be rendered kosher.
- On the second day of Shavuot, the Yizkor memorial service is recited.
- Some communities read the Book of Ruth publicly, as King David—whose passing occurred on this day—was a descendant of Ruth the Moabite.