Shauvot starts at sundown on Sunday, May 16, and ends at sundown on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.
What is it?
Shavuot is the third and final pilgrimage holiday in the Jewish calendar following Sukkot and Passover. Shavuot literally translates to “weeks” in Hebrew. It celebrates the end of the Israelites’ seven-week trek through the desert (led by Moses after the Exodus from Egypt) to reach Mount Sinai, where God gave the Israelites the Torah. Shavuot also marks the completion of the seven-week Omer counting period, which began at Passover.
Shavuot combines two major religious observances. First, the grain harvest of the early summer when Israelite males were commanded to appear before God in Jerusalem, bringing offerings of the first fruits of their harvest. Second, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt. This determines the significance of the holiday for Judaism, tying it in with the seminal event of Jewish religious memory, namely entering into a covenant between God and Israel, exemplified by Israel’s assumption of Divine law.
How do we celebrate?
- Pulling an All-Nighter: Many Jews celebrate the holiday by staying up all night on Erev Shavuot to symbolically prepare for receiving the wisdom of the Torah. It is also customary to study Torah all night; this practice is called Tikkun Leil Shavuot.
- Decorating: The timing of the holiday suggests that Shavuot may have been an ancient agricultural festival that took on special significance when the events at Mount Sinai occurred. Because of this, Jews will often “bring the outdoors indoors” by decorating the house and synagogue with flowers and greenery.
- The Book of Ruth: The Book of Ruth tells the story of Ruth the Moabite who chose to make the Israelites her people. Ruth is well-loved for her loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi and is often called Judaism’s most famous convert, or Jew by choice.
- Eating Dairy: Traditional holiday meals on Shavuot center around dairy foods. Milk is considered to be a symbol of the Torah, which nourishes the people directly, as milk does for a baby. Popular Shavuot foods include cheesecake, blintzes, and kugels. Some Sephardic Jews make seven-layered challah called siete cielos (seven heavens), which is supposed to represent Mt. Sinai. Click here for more Shavuot recipe ideas.
May 16: Tootsie Roll Torah Trot
Celebrate Shavuot with our family Tootsie Roll Torah Trot on Sunday, May 16, at 2 pm. We’re hiding hundreds of Tootsie Roll Torahs, each with a commandment written inside, throughout the Kesher Community Garden. Fun and prizes for everyone! Buy Tickets >>