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THE FESTIVAL OF SHAVUOT

 

 

 

 

 

Shavuot, the Feast of the Weeks, is the Jewish holiday celebrating the harvest season in Israel. Shavuot, which means "weeks", refers to the timing of the festival which is held exactly seven weeks after Passover. Shavuot is known also as Yom Habikkurim, or "the Day of the First Fruits", because it is the time the farmers of Israel would bring their first harvest to Jerusalem as a token of thanksgiving. This year Shavuot is celebrated on Monday 13 June, but like all Jewish festivals, it starts the evening before on Sunday 12 June. Shavuot also commemorates the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

 

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Celebrating the Day of the First Fruits

 

The farmers of Israel would begin their spring harvests with the barley crop at Passover. The harvest continued for seven weeks as the other crops and fruits began to ripen. As each fruit ripened, the first of each type would not be eaten but instead the farmer would tie a ribbon around the branch. This ribbon signified that these fruits were Bikkurim, or the first fruits.


8_april_17At Shavuot, the farmers would gather the Bikkurim into baskets and bring them to the city of Jerusalem where they would be eaten in the holy city. The farmers living close to Jerusalem would bring fresh fruits, while those who had to travel a long distance carried dried raisins and figs. This joyful occasion was celebrated with the music of fifes, timbres, and drums. As the pilgrims approached the city walls they were greeted by the inhabitants of the city. Sometimes the King himself would join the procession to the Temple Mount. The Bikkurim ritual is no longer practiced in present day Israel.

 



Shavuot customs

One Shavuot custom is the eating of dairy foods. One explanation states that this comes from a passage in the Torah which reads:

 

"And He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey".

 

8_april_17Another explanation comes from a legend stating that before the visit from God, the Jews did not keep kosher or follow the Kashrut (dietary) laws. It was on this first Shavuot that they found out that their utensils were non-kosher and thus unfit for use. So finding themselves without kosher meats or utensils the Israelites were forced to eat only dairy foods. Today Jews celebrate Shavuot by eating blintzes, cheesecake, and other dairy dishes.

A further legend tells the story of the Israelites finding Mount Sinai blooming and lush with greenery and flowers. From this legend grew the custom to decorate the Jewish home and synagogue with tree branches and flowers.

 

Shavuot and the Ten Commandments

 

12_april16Shavuot is also known as Zeman Matan Toratenu, the Season of the Giving of Our Law, which commemorates the receiving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.

After Moses and the Israelites fled the slavery of Egypt, they wandered the desert. God provided the travellers with food to eat (manna) and water to drink. After long months Moses brought his followers to the foot of a mountain called Sinai. Though the desert was dry and bare, the mountain was lush and green, covered with grass, flowers and trees. Moses and the Israelites set up camp at the base of the mountain.

14_april16On the third day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, Moses was commanded by God to prepare the Jewish people for God's decent and visit. The Israelites washed and purified their clothes and their bodies. Three days later,  on the sixth day of Sivan, the people were awaken by thunder and lightning. Thick, dark clouds hung over the mountain. The sounds of the Shofar, the ram's horn, were heard echoing across the desert. The earth began to tremble and shake. Then the Israelites heard a voice, God's voice, as he spoke to them from out of the clouds giving them his Ten Commandments. Moses then went up the mountain and returned with the Tablets that contained the Ten Commandments.

 

Through the centuries the Jewish people have celebrated this important event. It was at Mount Sinai that this band of worn and weary travellers would become the nation known as Israel.

 

 

Ne've Shalom
Great Gutter Lane
Willerby
Hull
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