Shavuot: Laws and Traditions

Shavuot (Pentecost) begins tonight. I have an incomplete (but complete enough) haggadah for Shavuot with information, readings, biblical meditations, and more. The link to the haggadah for Shavuot is here.

And the following list of laws and traditions is something I think you will find useful as you either prepare for the holy day or as you learn about it:

Laws and Traditions

Scripture #1: Shows the beginning point of the 50-day count, Leviticus 23:10-11. This is the day of offering Barley Firstfruits during Passover. In the time of the rabbis, and still today, there has been controversy over what “day after the Sabbath” means. Is it the day after the weekly Sabbath (and thus always Sunday) or the day after the Passover Yom Tov (and thus always the second day of Passover).

Scripture #2: The basic regulations for Shavuot, Leviticus 23:15-21. Count 49 days and on the 50th, it is Shavuot. This is the Firstfruits for wheat.

Scripture #3: Shavuot as one of the three pilgrim feasts, Deuteronomy 16:16.

Tradition #1: Shavuot is the day God gave the commandments from Sinai. This is based on Exodus 19:1 and following. The third month here means the third month of the year, Sivan. Israel had journeyed about 45 days to Sinai starting on Passover (Aviv/Nisan 15). Counting Sivan 1 to set up camp, Sican 2 for Moses to ascend and hear from God, and Sivan 3-5 as the three days of purification, it would be on Sivan 6 that God gave the Torah. This reconstruction is approximate and certainly does not prove that Torah was given exactly on Shavuot. There is something fitting to the idea of God revealing redemption on Passover and Torah on Shavuot.

Tradition #2: Reading the book of Ruth, which features grain harvest (mostly barley).

Tradition #3: Staying up all night on Shavuot Eve and reading scripture (traditionally there is a Tikkun Lel Shavuot book to follow which includes the beginning and ending of all portions of the Torah, small excerpts from each Mishnah and Talmud section, and the entire book of Ruth).

Tradition #4: Decorating with flowers and eating dairy dishes (such as cheese blintzes or cheesecake). Some say this is to remind that God’s revelation is like milk sustaining us.

New Testament Significance: Acts 2 tells the story of a certain Shavuot (Pentecost) when God gave the Holy Spirit. It is beyond interesting that the Spirit was given on an anniversary of the giving of the Torah. The New Testament explores the relationship of Law and Spirit.

On the Obligation of Rejoicing at Festivals

A man has nought else to do on a festival save to eat and drink or to sit and study. Divide it: devote half of it to eating and drinking and half to the beit midrash [house of study].”
–R. Joshua, Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 68b

If the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to bring the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money, and bind up the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses, and spend the money for whatever you desire, oxen, or sheep, or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves; and you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.
–Deuteronomy 14:24-26



About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Derek's Writings, Holidays, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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