SUNSET TUESDAY, MAY 18: Jews have been counting down since the second day of Passover for seven weeks now—it’s called Counting of the Omer—and tonight, 50 days following, begins the festival known as Shavuot. While Jews celebrated their Exodus from ancient Egypt during Passover, they recognize today the revelation of the Torah to Moses. Jews believe that, by receiving the Torah, they became a people committed to serving God. For one day in Israel and two days in the Diaspora, Jews feast, study the Torah, read the Book of Ruth, decorate with greenery and eat plenty of dairy foods. (Read more at Wikipedia.)
Just how the Jews received the Torah and Commandments is a complicated event. (Check out one explanation at Aish.com.) Although the Torah includes 613 commandments, they are summed up in the 10. (Find more explanatory articles at Aish.com.)
Many traditions converge in this holiday. (Read related guides, recipes and more at Chabad.org.) The Book of Ruth describes the barley and wheat harvest seasons of ancient Israel—Shavuot marks the end of this grain season, and farmers traditionally brought loaves to temples on Shavuot. The book also details Ruth’s desire to become a member of the Jewish people. Jewish teachers carefully note, though, that Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah by God, as opposed to its reception by the Jewish people. Teachers note that Jews are always receiving the Torah, but that it was only given once. After the Torah was given to Moses, the Israelites could not eat the meat products they had prepared beforehand, and so they ate dairy; before the Torah was given to Moses, it’s believed that Mount Sinai blossomed in greenery in anticipation of the event, and so Jews since have decorated their homes with greenery.
This year, according to JTA, a Jewish global news service, Israel’s top three dairy companies are competing fiercely for sales for Shavuot. During a time when dairy sales rise by almost 50 percent, the three companies are upsizing packages, lowering prices and spending millions on pre-Shavuot advertising.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)