On the evening of Tuesday, June 7, (the Hebrew month and year of Sivan 5771) Jews all over the world will begin celebrating the Festival of Shavuot.
Oy vey, you might wonder, ANOTHER Jewish holiday? What is this one about?
The Festival of Shavuot, or the Festival of Weeks (Hag Matan Torateinu), celebrates the Giving of the Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. [Exodus (20:1-17) and Deuteronomy (5:6-21)]
The Torah, also known as the Five Books of Moses, is the Written Law of the Hebrew bible, the Tanakh. The Five Books of the Torah are Genesis (B’reishit), Exodus (Sh’mot), Leviticus (Va-yikra), Numbers (B’midbar) and Deuteronomy (D’varim).
The countdown to Shavuot begins on the second day of Passover (this year, April 19) — and lasts for 49 days or seven weeks thereafter (thus, Festival of Weeks!).
These 50 days between Passover and Shavuot are filled with joyful anticipation. Passover freed the Jews from physical bondage and then, seven weeks later, the Torah provided them with spiritual freedom from the worship of idols and other bad stuff. The Torah gave the Jews their Rules To Live By (eg, the Ten Commandments).
It is important to note that the Jews were “given” the Torah by God as opposed to receiving it. Jews receive the Torah every day by studying and living its words. But it was only ‘given’ one time and that is what makes Shavuot special.
Shavuot is one of those cool Jewish holidays that prohibits work of any kind. It is a time to study the Torah and pray.
It is also the custom to be sure to eat at least one dairy meal during Shavuot. I, for one, am hoping that an ice cream sundae with all the fixin’s counts….
The origin of the tradition of eating dairy during Shavuot is not clear, but it may have to do with God’s promise to the wandering Jews of the gift of a “land flowing with milk and honey” (i.e. Israel).
It is also customary to read the Book of Ruth during Shavuot. Again, the reason is not clear, but hey, it’s short and it’s a great story!
Delicious desserts are a fabulous part of many Jewish festivals. Since Shavuot has a dairy theme, noshes for the sweet-tooth include cheesecake, blintzes, buttery cookies, rugelach (triangle-shaped pastries with filling) and kuchen (cake).
There are literally hundreds of online recipes just for cheesecake alone!
Chag Shavuot Sameach!
©June 2011 by Phyllis J. Hanniver