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Sivan 6-7, May-June

Also known as “Pentecost” or “Feast of Weeks,” Shavuot is an agricultural festival mentioned in Exodus (Shemot) 23:14-19 and Leviticus (Vayikra) 23: 9-22. This festival marks the end of the first harvest, which began around Passover. Shavuot literally means “weeks” because of the seven weeks of omer counting (see panel on the Omer).

Originally this holiday marked the beginning of bringing the first fruits to the Temple. The Torah does not give a specific date for Shavuot; observance depends on the cycles of the moon and counting from the start of harvest.

Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage (to the Temple) festivals, along with Sukkot and Passover/Pesach. But after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, Shavuot became associated with the revelation at Mt. Sinai because, according to Exodus (Shemot) 19:1, this event took place during the third month, Sivan. Today Shavuot celebrates God giving the Torah — the guidebook for Jews on how to live — to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai.

Shavuot traditions include staying up all night to study the Torah, read the scroll of Ruth, and read Exodus (Shemot) 19 and 20 (which describe the giving of the Torah). Customs include decorating homes and synagogues with flowers and plants and eating dairy foods.

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