by Elijah Wiseman
Shavuot marks the 50th day in the Omer count since Pesach and celebrates the spring harvest. According to the Gemara, Shavuot represents the day God gave the Torah to the Israelites. In preparation for the celebrations, here are a few facts about it:
- In the time of the Temple, Pesach was when wheat was harvested, and Shavuot represented the harvest of the barley later on. Here in Hartsdale, it’s too early for either!
- Shavuot means “weeks” in Hebrew because according to the Torah it took the Israelites seven weeks to travel from Egypt to Har Sinai, where they received the Torah from God on the 50th day of their travel. The Greek name for Shavuot is the Pentecost, which means 50 days.
- Shavuot is also Yom HaBikkurim, the Day of the First Fruits. Jews would bring the first fruits of the harvest as a sacrifice to the Temple on Shavuot. The fruits could include the Shivat Haminim, the seven species, which are special crops in Israel: wheat, barley, figs, grapes, dates, olives and pomegranates. Quiz your friends to see who knows all seven!
- On Shavuot, we read the story of Ruth, a Moabite woman who converted to Judaism and accompanies her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Israel despite Naomi’s begging her to stay in Moab. Read more about Ruth here.
- A common tradition on Shavuot is to eat dairy food. The reason why we do so varies depending on who you ask, but many agree that it has to do with Israel being a land flowing with milk and honey and to symbolize this we eat sweet dairy products. The one thing no one disagrees about is that it’s a great opportunity to eat cheesecake!
- Many adults study Torah all night in a tradition called Tikkun Leil Shavuot. The tradition comes from a midrash that some Israelites overslept on the day of the giving of the Torah and had to be awakened. This is the opportunity to redeem ourselves.
- At TLS, students sampled some of the seven species, including wheat, in the form of crackers, grapes and olives, in the form of olive oil.
Have a Chag Sameach… and don’t forget the cheesecake!