Shavuot is one of the three major Jewish Biblical pilgrimage festivals, on which Jews used to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem to bring their first fruits. The festival takes place exactly 50 days after the festival of Passover. Shavuot is also sometimes referred to as the Feast of Weeks. Greek speaking Jews gave the festival the name Pentecost, since it occurs fifty days after Passover.
Shavuot is also the day when the Torah was given to the Jewish people by God, so the festival is also the festival of receiving of the Torah.
The Hebrew meaning of the word Shavuot is "weeks", because Shavuot marks the completion of the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot, which is called the Omer period, during which the people of Israel prepared themselves for the giving of the Torah. During this time they cleansed themselves of the scars of slavery in Egypt, and became a holy nation ready to enter into the eternal covenant with God with the giving of the Torah.
Shavuot also means "oaths", with the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people and God exchanged oaths, forming an everlasting covenant, not to forsake one another.
Shavuot in the Torah
The Observance of Shavuot is mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy:
- Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn.
- And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
- and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there.
- And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.
The names of Shavuot
There are many names for the feast of Shavuot. Here are some of them:
- Feast of Weeks
- Feast of Harvest
- Day of the First-Fruits