Shavuos falls early in the month of Sivan and commemorates the revelation and renewing of the Torah which God ‘re-gives’ every year on this day. In the past, it also celebrated the yearly grain harvest. We celebrate Shavuos in various ways such as eating dairy foods and many men stay up all night learning.
WHY WE CELEBRATE
Shavuos, which is observed in Israel for one day, and 2 days for Jews in the diaspora, is celebrated for two reasons.
Firstly, it is in celebration of the giving of the Torah to the Jews after the exodus from Egypt, and them having been emancipated as slaves 3300 years ago. The word ‘Shavuos’ literally means weeks which is a reference to the 7 weeks it took for the Jews to reach Har Sinai from Egypt. This is marked by the counting of the Omer which begins on the second night of Pesach and ends on Shavuos.
The second reason, which is less prominent in these days, is that Shavuos marked the end of the spring harvest. This is one of the three pilgrimage festivals in the Torah and men were commanded to take their first and best fruits, displayed in beautiful baskets, to the Beit Hamikdash to thank God for providing another yearly harvest.
HOW WE CELEBRATE
One of the ways Shavuos is celebrated is that it has become a universal Jewish tradition to eat dairy foods and meals on Shavuot, and cheesecake has become symbolic of this. Although there is no known reason for this tradition, various reasons have been suggested. One idea is that after the Jews received the Torah they immediately became obligated in all its laws, including those regulating shechita. But since they didn’t have time to prepare kosher meat they just ate dairy instead.
Another explanation may be that the Torah is likened to milk and honey. Therefore, it has become a tradition to eat dairy foods on Shavuos, although there is no conclusive reason for this practice.
Megilat Ruth is also read in Shul on Shavuos in some communities as David Hamelech, a descendent of Ruth, passed away on this day.
Additionally, it is a widely held custom for men to stay up learning. This expresses the enthusiasm of the Jewish people to receive the Torah. The reason for this is it is recounted that on the day of the giving of the Torah the entire Jewish people had slept in and Moshe had to wake them. This is at the heart of the reason men stay up all night- it’s a way to express enthusiasm for the Torah and show eagerness to learn and adhere to it. And one of the ways this is done is men say Shacharit at the earliest permitted time. Therefore, it has become customary for men to stay up all night learning.
Shavuos is a joyous festival celebrating the covenant the Jews made with God at Har Sinai and is celebrated with flowers, sweet-smelling plants and cheesecake. And from everyone at Kosher Kingdom, we hope you have an enjoyable Shavuos!