How Do Jewish Americans Observe Shavuot?
Many Jewish Americans observe Shavuot, which is the second of three major Jewish festivals that focus on historical and agricultural importance. The other two are Passover and Sukkot. Shavuot is one of the Jewish harvest festivals, also known as the festival or feast of ‘Weeks’. There is no set date for the two-day festival, but it takes place seven weeks (fifty days) after the first day of the spring festival of Passover. This time of year marks the start of the wheat harvest and the end of the barley harvest.
Shavuot is sometimes called the Jewish Pentecost. The word Pentecost here refers to the count of fifty days after Passover. The Christian festival of Pentecost also has its origins in Shavuot. Shavuot also marks the time that the Jews were given the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is considered a highly important historical event.
Prayers are said on Shavuot (especially at dawn) to thank God for the five books of Moses (collectively known as the Torah) and for his law. Some people also spend the first night of Shavuot studying the Torah. Synagogues are decorated with flowers and plants on this joyous occasion to remember the flowers of Mount Sinai.
Many Jewish communities in the United States observe special customs on Shavuot. These activities include reading the Book of Ruth or staying up all night to study the Torah (the five books of Moses). Many Jewish people also eat dairy foods during Shavuot. Many homes are decorated with various plants, including those with flowers. Special prayers are made and candles are lit on this day. Jewish confirmations may also take place at this time of the year.
Some Jewish people take
some of their annual holiday during this time of the year so they do not need
to work on Shavuot. Some sources say that, according to Jewish custom, no work
is permitted on Shavuot except cooking, baking, transferring fire and carrying
objects or equipment.
At one time, Jewish men were expected to bring their first omer, or sheaf, of barley to the Temple in Jerusalem as a thanksgiving offering. After the period of Jewish slavery in Egypt, Shavuot also celebrated Moses’ return from the top of Mt Sinai with the two stone tablets containing the “Ten Commandments”. These commandments are the most fundamental laws of the Jewish faith. Therefore, Shavuot is also known as the Festival of the Giving of the Law.