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The Yom Tov (holiday) of Shavuot is when we
stay up all night learning, decorate our synagogues and homes
with flowers and greenery, and eat lots of cheesecake, blintzes
and other dairy foods. The Yom Tov begins at sundown of
the 5th day of Sivan, exactly fifty days after
Pesach / Passover.
This year (5773-2013),
Shavuot, also called Zman Matan Torateinu, (the
"Time of the Giving of Our Torah") starts at sundown,
Tuesday, May 14th, and lasts for two
days, Wednesday, May 15th and Thursday,
May 16th, the 6th and 7th of Sivan. In Eretz
Yisroel, The Yom Tov of Shavuot lasts for
one day, Wednesday, May 15th, the
6th of Sivan.
celebrates the time when the first fruits of the Seven Species
with which Eretz Yisroel is blessed, were harvested and
brought in elaborately decorated baskets to the Bait Hamikdash,
and is also known as Chag Ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of
the First Fruits). Shavuot is also the wheat harvest
festival - Chag HaKatzir (the Feast of Harvest). The beginning
of the wheat harvest throughout Eretz Yisroel was preceded
by the offering of shtay halechem (two loaves) as a meal-offering
in the Bait Hamikdash.
work is permitted on Shavuot.
The "work" prohibited on Shavuot is the same
as that prohibited on Shabbat, except that cooking, baking,
transferring fire and carrying, all of which are forbidden on
Shabbat, are permitted on Shavuot. When Shavuot
falls on a Shabbat, all bets are off, and all Shabbat
restrictions must be observed.
THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO THIS SHAVUOT 2013:
When Shavuot falls on Friday and Shabbat, (as it dId in the year 5769-2009), in order to be able to cook on Friday for Shabbat,
an Eruv Tavshilin is made.
It is usually forbidden to prepare food on Yom Tov for
another day, even for the Shabbat. However, if someone
began preparing food for Shabbat before Yom Tov,
(on Thursday), it is permitted to continue on Friday (even though
it is Yom Tov). This is known as 'Eruv Tavshilin,'
literally, 'mingling of cooked foods,' since these foods become
part of the Shabbat food, whose preparation has already
begun BEFORE the Yom Tov started, and may therefore be
continued on Friday.
Some food (a matzah and a cooked food, such
as an egg, fish or meat) is prepared on the afternoon before Yom
Tov (Thursday), and set aside to be eaten on Shabbat.
When we set this food aside on Thursday afternoon, we recite
the following blessing:
"Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who has
made us holy with His mitzvot, and commanded us about the
mitzvah of Eruv."
We now explain why we are making an Eruv, so we say the
following paragraph. Someone who does not understand the text
should recite it in English:
"With this Eruv, may we be allowed to bake, to cook, to
fry, to insulate, to light a flame, to prepare for, and to do
anything needed on Yom Tov for the sake of Shabbat
[for ourselves and for all the Jews who live in this city].
commemorates the giving of the Torah by Hashem
to the entire Bnei Yisroel (Jewish people) on Har
(Mount) Sinai over 3,300 years ago.
In the Torah, Shavuot is also called Feast
of Weeks. In Hebrew, the word "Shavuot" means
"weeks" and stands for the seven weeks during which
the Bnei Yisroel prepared themselves for the giving of
the Torah. During this time they rid themselves of the
scars of bondage and became a holy nation ready to stand before
The period from Pesach / Passover to Shavuot
is a time of great anticipation. We count each of the days from
the second day of Pesach to the day before Shavuot,
49 days or 7 full weeks, The counting reminds us of the important
connection between Pesach and Shavuot: Pesach
freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah
on Shavuot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to
idolatry and immorality.
The giving of the Torah was far more than an historical
event. It was a far-reaching spiritual event -- one that touched
the essence of the Jewish soul then and for all time. Our Sages
have compared it to a wedding between Hashem and the
Bnei Yisroel. We became His special nation and He became
Revelation at Har Sinai was a tumultuous awe-inspiring
experience. The entire universe, our Sages say, trembled with the
piercing sound of the ram's horn. Thunder and lightning filled the
skies. Then -- silence. Not a bird chirped. No creature spoke. The
seas did not stir. Even the angels ceased to fly, as the voice was
heard: "I am the L-rd your G-d ..."
For a detailed
account of The giving of the Torah,
Each year, Shavuot
is the special time for us to reawaken and strengthen our special
relationship with Hashem. We can do so by rededicating
ourselves to the observance and study of the Torah --
our most precious heritage.
Every Jewish man,
woman and child, including young infants, should make every effort
to attend services at least on the first day of Shavuot,
Wednesday morning, May 15, 2013,
and hear the Torah reading of the Aseret Hadibrot,
(the Ten Commandments).
Over Three thousand
three hundred years ago, the Children of Israel stood at the foot
of Har Sinai and received the Torah from Hashem.
Together they proclaimed: "Na'ahseh V'Nishma, (We
will do and we will listen)" (Shmot 24:7). Each
year on the Yom Tov of Shavuot, this historic
event is relived as we commit ourselves anew to observing the
Hashem revealed Himself on Har Sinai, our entire
people heard His voice proclaiming the Aseret Hadibrot.
I am the L-rd, your G-d who took you out from the land of Egypt.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not take the name of the L-rd, your G-d in vain.
Remember the Shabbat day and keep it holy.
Honor your Father and your Mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not want what your neighbor has.
These are the
Aseret Hadibrot - the 10 Commandments that are the
basis of all the laws of the Torah! They range from
the highest and most refined concept of the belief in the oneness
of Hashem, to the most basic laws which every society
has found it necessary to enforce, - not killing and not stealing.
For a more detailed
account of The Aseret Hadibrot.
- FLOWERS AND GREENS
A beautiful long-standing Shavuot tradition is the
decoration of our homes and shuls (synagogues) with fragrant
flowers, leaves, tree branches, and greens. Many reasons have
been given for this custom.
- Flowers: Our Sages taught that although Har
Sinai was situated in a desert, in honor of the Torah
the desert bloomed and sprouted flowers.
- Greens: Our Sages taught that on Shavuot
judgment is rendered regarding the trees of the field.
- TIKUN LAIL SHAVUOT
A well established Minhag (custom) calls for all-night
Torah study on the first night of Shavuot, because
on the day the Bnei Yisroel were to receive the Torah,
the nation overslept. As an atonement, the Zohar says
that certain pious individuals would remain awake the entire night
of Shavuot as a means to rectify this lapse.
Many people read the Tikkun Leil Shavuot, a formal
guide of study for Shavuot, originally formulated by
the Arizal, and subsequently enhanced by the Sh’lah
Hakadosh. It contains passages from every Parsha
in the Torah, each book of Tanach, the first
and last Mishnah of every Tractate, a listing
of the 613 Mitzvot, and some sections of the Zohar.
In some congregations, Rabbis lecture deep into the night,
either to enable the entire congregation to study the same topic
or perhaps to accommodate those who are not capable of studying
by themselves, (or perhaps to put some congregants to sleep
- only kidding).
- DAIRY MEALS
It is customary to eat a dairy meal at least once on Shavuot.
Others eat dairy products (but not hard cheese) before the main
(meat) lunch meal.
There are several reasons given by our Sages for the custom
of eating a dairy meal on Shavuot. One of them is,
that on Shavuot, the Bnei Yisroel had just
received the Torah (and the laws of Kashrut
therein), and they did not have both meat and dairy dishes yet,
and were unable to use their dishes that day (Shabbat)
until they were rendered Kosher by the proper process of "kashering"
utensils. Thus their meal was a dairy meal.
Another reason is that the Torah is compared to Milk.
The word for milk, Chalav, has the numerical value
of 40, corresponding to the 40 days Moses spent on Har Sinai.
For a great Shavuot recipe Click
On the first day of Shavuot, after the Kohain
has been called to the Torah, but before he recites his
blessing, Akdamut is read responsively, the chazzan
saying two verses, and the congregation saying the next two. It
was composed as an introduction to the Aseret Hadibrot.
Consisting of ninety verses, composed by Rabbi Meir ben Yitzchak,
it is probably one of Judaism's best known and most beloved Piyut
(liturgical poem). It is a description of Hashem's creation
of the world and close look at the splendors of Olam Habah
(the World to Come). It describes the Malachim's praise
of Hashem and the greatness and the suffering of Bnei
(THE SCROLL OF) RUTH
Megillat Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuot,
before the reading of the Torah. Many reasons are given
for this practice:
The entire Torah is loving kindness, and this
Megillah consists of loving kindness, therefore it is read
on the day of the giving of the Torah (Midrash Rabbah).
The act of Ruth's conversion took place during the harvest
season, 'at the beginning of the barley harvest' to the 'end
of the wheat harvest.' This period includes the Yom Tov
Matan Torah marks the beginning of the Jewish Nation,
when they entered into the Covenant with Hashem.
Megillat Ruth tells how Ruth entered into that Covenant.
Megillat Ruth is the history of the roots of King
David. The last verse, which continues the line of Boaz’ descendants,
ends with David. Since Shavuot is the birthday and
Yahrzeit (day of death) of King David, we read Ruth
The central character is the heroine - Ruth, who, at least
at the beginning of the story is not even Jewish. (Of course,
she converted). Her son, born of her marraige to Boaz, was Oved,
grandfather of King David, first of the royal family of Israel—the
House of David. The Talmud calls Ruth Ima Shel
Malchut, (mother of royalty), because her progeny included
David and Solomon, and the future Moshiach who will
end all exiles, return Israel to its greatest glory, and lead
all the world to the destiny for which it was created.
For a more detailed account of The Story of Ruth
Return to SHAVUOT page
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