Project Genesis

The Calendar and Holidays (incl. Sabbath)


Shavuos in Context

Question: I know that the holiday of Shavuos is coming up soon.  What does that word mean in English? What does the holiday commemorate? What season of the year does it come in?

Answer: The word Shavuos means “weeks.” It is called that because it is celebrated after counting seven weeks from the Passover holiday. The Jews were slaves when they were taken out of Egypt on Passover.  The seven weeks following are seen as a time when they grew from their lowly status, to that of noble servants of the King of all Kings. Shavuos was the culmination of this process—the day upon which the Jews accepted the Torah (i.e. the laws detailing their service as dictated by the Master of the World).

The holiday takes place at the beginning of the summer, the time of the ripening of the fruits planted in the spring. This season is symbolic of the ripening of the Jewish people from a lowly seed (when they left Egypt as slaves), to a noble fruit (when they accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai). In fact, the Torah also calls this holiday the Day of the First Fruits (Numbers 28:26). When the Holy Temple was standing in Jerusalem, Jews would bring the first fruits of their crops to the Temple with a procession of great fanfare, and offer them to their Creator as a statement of gratitude for their personal and national prosperity. The bringing of these fruits started on Shavuos.

Best Regards,
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler

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