The Season of the Giving of Our Torah
May 14, 2013
Dear Friends of The Fellowship
The Jewish festival of Shavuot
, celebrated on the 6th day of the month of Sivan on the Hebrew calendar (the holiday begins today at sundown), has multiple themes. Most significantly, it commemorates God's giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. On Shavuot
, Jews around the world remember this pivotal moment with great joy and gratitude.
It's easy, then, to see why Jews call Shavuot
"The Season of the Giving of our Torah
." But Shavuot
is also known by other names, each of which sheds light on its multiple themes. It is commonly known as the "Feast of Weeks," since it is celebrated seven complete weeks after the holiday of Passover (see Deuteronomy 16:10). It is also called "Pentecost," meaning "fifty" in Greek, since it occurs on the fiftieth day after Passover. The celebration of Shavuot
fifty days after the Passover is based on a computation from the 19th chapter of Exodus that indicates the revelation on Mt. Sinai took place exactly fifty days after the Exodus from Egypt.
In Temple times, Shavuot
was also a very important agricultural holiday. Thus, Shavuot
is also known as the "Festival of the First Fruits," since the first produce of the year was brought to the Temple on this day, as well as the "Festival of the Harvest" since it celebrates the harvest season and Temple offering of the two loaves of bread made from the first wheat harvest.
In ancient times sheaves of barley were brought to the Temple each day, from Passover through Shavuot
, marking the beginning of the harvest period fifty days later. Farmers in Temple days counted the days from Passover until the harvest holiday of Pentecost with great excitement and anticipation. When Shavuot
finally arrived farmers would bring their "first fruits" of the wheat harvest to the temple in Jerusalem amidst great pomp and ceremony. They rejoiced before God and thanked Him for their material blessings.
Today we reenact the joy and anticipation the farmers experienced during the harvest season by linking the spring harvest festival of Passover with the summer agricultural one of Shavuot
. Similarly, today we joyously count the days between Passover when we were redeemed from bondage, and Shavuot
when we received the Torah
. On this special day, we make a special effort to demonstrate our love for God, our gratitude for the Torah
, and our devotion to His Word.
With prayers for shalom
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Chairman, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada