The Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost as it was used to be called in English, is the holiday at the end of Sefirat HaOmer. Shavuot marks the conclusion of the seven week counting of the Omer, which starts right at the end of Passover. 49 days where the jewish people makes sure to count, mention which day of the count it currently is, at the end of the day, after the evening's prayer.
While our kids might confidently declare that we're marking the days until our next school holiday, that's not quite it.
Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals in the Torah - the 3 times a year where people would do Aliyah LeRegel to our holy temple.
When the holy temple was still standing in ancient Jerusalem, the Israelites would come from all over the country, to bring their agricultural gifts. 3 times a year, marking 3 seasons and their respective harvests - in Passover people would come bearing their end of winter fruit. In Shavuot they would bear their spring produce and in Sukkot they would give the summer's finest to the temple and its people.
This wonderful tradition was a way to thank the lord for another year filled with good harvests and strong health.
Shavuot is also the day when according to tradition, we were given the Torah in mount Sinai. Even though it's one of the less familiar holidays, we know it well enough to love and cherish this special day.
With so much to celebrate, we've added further customs to this already eventful holiday.
Not just the end of the Counting of the Omer, which means we can once again shave our beards and rejoice, not only the blessed day where we became the chosen people who got the Torah - but also a festive meal full of delicious dairy products and a day to throw water balloons at once another!
We're not sure which is our favorite part of this busy holiday, but we know it's hard to find someone who doesn't like it.
Shavuot carries with it many memories, made at various ages, according to the progress of one's life -
When we're kids, we get Torah shaped plushies, to hug while everyone arounds us gets ready to go and listen to a good long Torah lesson, after the fancy meal.
A few years later, we're already allowed to join the family in their nightlong stay at the synagogue, carrying our very special child sized Torah. Some of us here have very vivid memories of those Shavuot nights, when the adults were inside the synagogue, and we would sit on a bench right outside. Feeling very grown up for being out so late, we would stare into the sky, waiting for it to tear open like the Rabbi just said it would on the night of Shavuot, when the Torah was given to us. Would we see the hand of G-D if we look close enough?.
In adolescence, we start to take an interest in carbs, so our memories from the lovely holiday of Shavuot become linked with the wonderful cheesecakes we took upon ourselves to make for the entire family, while our younger siblings read their books about Blintzes to get into the Shavuot spirit.
Even older, we Prepare to read the Torah, with a special Yad we get or give as a present to someone who's extra excited for the holiday, and when old enough, giving Shavuot lessons in the synagogue.
This holiday is indeed filled with exciting events for all ages.
Well, we count the 49 days of the Omer for several reasons.
Some hold that the counting of the Omer originated with the plague that struck Rabbi Akiva's pupils. Those were hard times of the people of Israel, with many smart students perishing. We can easily understand nowadays, with COVID restrictions floating all around us. Should we start a countdown until this current outbreak dies down? It could be interesting to add a modern twist to this countdown tradition.
Other opinions around the 49 days of the Omer explain that we prepare ourselves for the next season, for the harvest of the next ripening produce. Passover marks the beginning of spring, and Shavuot marks the beginning of summer. So counting the 49 days between, is like the countdown from spring to summer.
Since Shavuot has a very strong link to many agricultural customs, like the harvest, it's easy to understand the count between Passover and Shavuot as a mark of the seasons. The seven species of Israel, Shivat HaMinim, are marked in the three pilgrimage holidays, and especially in Shavuot. Prepare your home for this holiday with a great momentum of the fruits of our land.
In Shavuot, many people choose to wear white. We wear white to several jewish occasions throughout the year, Shavuot being one of them.
In ancient times, it is told that Israelites would go out to the fields and dance to celebrate this wonderful festival, all dressed in white. We can totally relate and understand why Shavuot would be a great time to go out dancing in the field;
The weather is just perfect - no longer chilly and not yet too hot. Flowers look up to the sky in full blossom, knowing they're weeks away from waning down, not to bloom again until the heat blows over. And the spirits are high, looking forward to a good summer.
Choose your finest whites, perhaps put on your beloved Tallit. Eat some delightful dairy products. Go to a few Torah lessons that could really capture you and your family's interest, and make this Shavuot a holiday to remember.