Shavuot is a famous holiday which the Jewish people celebrate to remember the day God gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai, the holiday association between the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text.
Shavuot is celebrated on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, which may occur on May or June. It falls fifty days after Passover, which comes before Shavuot. It falls around Pentecost.
In Secular Jews of the Diaspora, Shavuot is one of the Jewish holidays known to not be celebrated as much, while the people in Israel celebrate it every year. Shavuot is a one-day holiday (two in the Diaspora) with many names, dozens of traditions and recipes galore.
The hype surrounding the holiday — agricultural festivals at kibbutz and moshav communities, special lectures at synagogues and community centers, sales on everything white at shopping malls, cheaper dairy products at the supermarket, school plays and child-oriented festivals — make it seem as though Shavuot is a much longer event.
According to Jewish law, Shavuot is celebrated in Israel for one day and in the Diaspora (outside of Israel) for two days. Reform Jews celebrate only one day, as well as the Diaspora.
Here are interesting facts you may not have known about the holiday:
1. Shavuot has many names, Shavuot means weeks, marking the fact it is celebrated after 7 weeks. It is also called Yom Habikkurim, The Day of the First Fruits, where Israel would celebrate the frist fruits of the harvest. Another name is Chag Hakatzir, The Festival of the Harvest, as it was celebrated at the end of the barley harvest.
2. In Israel, you know Shavuot is coming when you pick up your newspaper and recipe booklets drop out. About three weeks prior to the actual date, Israeli newspapers come replete with brand-sponsored recipe booklets and pamphlets promising the “easiest cheesecake” and “fastest blintzes” to wow your guests.
Social media is also awash with friends and friends of friends announcing, posting and sharing their famed recipes for dairy pastries and foods.
3. A great Shavuot tradition is to stay up all night learning. Tradition is that the Children of Israel slept in on the day that the Torah was given. Imagine that! To make up for it Jews around the globe have been staying up and taking part in learning programmes to show we mean business.
4. Get your water guns and buckets … Shavuot is all about water fights, presumably because the Torah is often likened to water. In many Israeli cities, children gather for impromptu water-gun and water-balloon wars in the streets, public squares and parks. Another way to celebrate is taking a water hike along Israel’s rivers.
5. Shavuot is the only Jewish holiday with a dairy menu. The Bible refers to Israel as “the land of milk and honey,” and Shavuot puts the country’s world-famous dairy in the spotlight.
The Torah that Moses brought to the Israelites included the commandment to keep kosher. It was much easier to celebrate the receiving of the law with a dairy smorgasbord than to immediately set into motion kosher slaughtering techniques. Moreover, the gematria (numerical value) of the word chalav (milk) is 40, the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah.
Israel boasts more than 1,000 locally made dairy products and the world’s largest selection of soft, spreadable white cheeses, according to the Israel Dairy Board.
The Dairy Board helps some of the 834 dairy farms around the country arrange visiting days for the general public to see how the 125,000 milking cows of the Israeli Holstein breed each produce an average of 12,083 kilos of milk per year.