Shavuot is the Hebrew word for “weeks” and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which occurs seven weeks after Passover. 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 during which 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.
Shavuot, known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, is reflected in the Bible, which recounts how, after the Exodus from Egypt, the Children of Israel proceeded to Mount Sinai in the desert. Moses ascended the mountain to meet God, who gave him the Ten Commandments, which were written on two tablets to be delivered to the Children of Israel.
According to the Torah, it took precisely 49 days, or seven weeks, for the ancient Israelites to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai. The Torah commands: “And you shall proclaim that day (the 50th day) to be a holy convocation!” (Leviticus 23:21). The name Shavuot, “Weeks,” symbolizes the completion of this seven-week journey. The rabbis tightened this connection by associating Shavuot with Moses’ receiving the Torah from God atop Mount Sinai.
Shavuot also is a harvest holiday. In the time of the Temple, the ancient Israelites brought their first fruits to the Temple to offer to God at Shavuot. Along with Sukkot and Passover, it is one of the Shalosh Regalim (Three Pilgrimage Festivals), during which people gathered in Jerusalem with their agricultural offerings.
Shavuot is known by several names: Chag Hashavuot (the Festival of Weeks), Chag Habikkurim (the Feast of the First Fruits), and Chag Hakatzir (the Festival of Reaping). Ashkenazi Jews may pronounce and write the name of the holiday as Shavuos.
Temple Anshe Sholom and Beth Jacob Synagogue join together on erev Shavuot for services and Leil Tikkun Hamilton, a study evening with delicious dairy treats.