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The Meaning of Shavuot

What is Shavuot? For being one of the most sacred holidays in Judaism, many Believers around the world know very little about this holiday, and why it is also important to their faith! In Israel, this holiday begins at sundown on the 5th of the Hebrew month of Sivan, and ends the following evening, and in the diaspora this holiday will last between the 8th and 10th of June this year. The holiday commemorates the end of the period of ‘Omer’, which is the 7-weeks’ time between Passover and Shavuot, as dictated in the Book of Leviticus. “Shavuot” means “weeks” in Hebrew, and delineates this period of time from when the Jewish people were liberated from Egypt, began their Exodus, and arrived at Mount Sinai. On the day of Shavuot, Moses receives the Torah from God, and thus the Jewish people as a nation are given their holy scripture and laws, which were studied, honored and glorified for the more than 3,000 years that followed. The word “Shavuot” also means “oaths”, as this granting of the Torah was a divine covenant between the Lord and his chosen people.

Thus, celebration of Shavuot both commemorates the ending of the Omer period, as well as the sacred oath between God and the Jewish people. From sundown to sundown is a dedicated time for Jews of all persuasions, from ultra-orthodox to traditional, to study and revel in God’s word that was given on Mt. Sinai, and the teachings that succeeded it. It is a time for renewing the devotion and oath with God, as though He is newly granting us His word every year for the first time. The holiday begins with the lighting of candles, and a special prayer to usher in the evening of study. It is customary to stay up all night studying the Torah. Oftentimes there are special seminars, lectures and learning groups created for this night. Among many teachings, there are of course special synagogue services to recite and learn about the Ten Commandments.

Shavuot is also considered a harvest holiday, as during the times of the Temple, wheat loaves were given as an offering along with the first and most select fruits from the harvest (these are referred to a “bikkurim”). Another holiday observation is the eating of a dairy-only meal on the first day of Shavuot. Because the Jews were given the Torah on this day, the Kosher laws were also bestowed upon them, and they began their observance immediately. However, because the laws were given on Shabbat, the Jews were unable to slaughter animals, so the Israelites ate a meal of dairy alone, which is why modern Israelis and Jews across the world also observe this custom on the first evening of the holy day. In modern times, it is not a sacrifice though, as Jews have perfected their recipes for cheesecakes, pastries and other celebratory foods for the event. This custom has also become symbolic, with the comparison between the nourishing power of the Torah and the sustaining nature of milk.

CBN Israel was happy to support one of our many partners in hosting holocaust survivors for a special Shavuot event this week in Jerusalem. 127 beneficiaries attended a musical performance and a special rabbinical Shavuot service. The event was hosted at Christ Church near Jaffa Gate at the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem; the beautiful marble walls echoed with music and the charismatic imparting of the teaching. CBN provided food vouchers and a catered lunch for all attendees, to celebrate the coming holiday, and host a special social gathering for the elderly group. The event was a blessing to all, and beneficiaries left with smiles on their faces.

From Jerusalem, the CBN Israel team wishes everyone a blessed Shavuot. Whether Jew or gentile, it is a wonderful reminder to renew our devotion to God, and dedicate our lives more fully to living in accordance with His word, and his teachings.

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