Shavuot, like many other Jewish holidays, began as an ancient agricultural festival that marked the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. In ancient times, Shavuot was a pilgrimage festival where Israelites brought crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, it is a celebration of Torah, education, and actively choosing to participate in Jewish life.
The word Shavuot means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot. The Torah was given by God to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of God’s gift, and God “re-gives” the Torah.
The holiday of Shavuot is a two-day holiday, beginning at sundown of the 5th of Sivan and lasting until nightfall of the 7th of Sivan. Women and girls light holiday candles to usher in the holiday, on both the first and second evenings of the holidays.
It is customary to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot.
All men, women and children should go to the synagogue on the first day of Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments.
As on other holidays, special meals are