Just like the others,
the second of the three pilgrimage festivals has a natural
meaning and historical significance. In biblical times,
during this feast the first harvested fruits were carried
to the temple in Jerusalem as an offering of thanks. Even
today, all the synagogues are decorated with fresh foliage
and flowers. “Shavuot” means “weeks”. There are seven weeks
between Pesach, the beginning of barley harvest, and Shavuot,
the beginning of the wheat harvest.
The religio-historical meaning of Shavuot is based on
remembrance of the revelation on Mount Sinai and the proclamation
of The Ten Commandments. The Bible says that Moses received
the Ten well-known Commandments and many others at Mount
Sinai during the wandering of the people of Israel through
the desert. These commandments are part of the first formulated
moral laws in human history. The alliance between God and
“His people” is based on the recognition of these commandments.
The Israelites accepted the obligation of obeying the divine
commandments and to spread them throughout the world. The
formulation “the chosen people”, then, has to be understood
in this sense.
Many traditions have emerged in relation to the festival
of Shavuot. They have replaced key symbols from other pilgrimage
festivals (Pesach: matzo; Sukkot: foliage hut): well-known
among these are curd cake and cheese-cake which are baked
with rich ingredients and are available in abundance. According
to tradition, it is important to spend the first night studying
the Jewish doctrine. During the twilight of the morning
dawn, prayers take place. This is a night of teaching and
learning, whether in one’s community (more generally) or
with a circle of friends. In either case, it is certainly
a dignified commemoration of the revelation at Mount Sinai.