Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day G-d gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai; although the association between the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text. The holiday is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals. It marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer. Please join us at Congregation Kneseth Israel for the celebration of this festival.
Shavuot 2015/5775 Schedule
Study sessions: Saturday evening at 8:00 PM
First day: Sunday, May 24, 2015/6 Sivan 5774 -- services begin at 9:00 AM, kiddush sponsored by David and Helen Cohen Exodus 19:1 - 20:23/Numbers 28:26-31 Haftorah: Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12
Second day: Monday, May 25, 2014/7 Sivan 5774 -- services begin at 9:00 AM Deuteronomy 14:22 - 16:17/Numbers 28:26-31 Haftorah: Habakkuk 2:20 - 3:19 The Book of Ruth is recited on the second day. Yiskor services following the Torah reading.
Synopsis: The festival of Shavuot falls at the time when we start to read from the Book of Numbers (Bamidbar, which was last Shabbos).
Q: How many candles do we light for Shavuot, and when do we light them?
A: We light at least two candles in honor of the festival. We must light these each of the two evenings of the holiday. Lighting on the first night occurs at sundown. Lighting on the second night takes place no earlier than one hour after sundown. It is laudable to light a candle in memory of one's deceased loved ones. Lighting of any candles on the second night must be done by transferring a flame from an already existing light source.
Q: What is the source of the custom of decorating the Ark with flowers and greenery on Shavuot?
A: G-d chose a mountain from which to give us the Torah. Mount Sinai was one of the lowest mountains and it was also the most modest, so G-d selected it for those reasons. This teaches us the importance of modesty. Because Mount Sinai was covered in greenery, we decorate the ark with flora. Shavuotdoes not have the tangible symbols of other holidays, like matzoh or the sukkah. The idea surrounding Shavuot is more abstract. So we use flowers and greens to show special respect and honor to the Torah and the ark on this holiday.
Q: What is the reason for the widespread custom of eating dairy products on Shavuot?
A: The Torah mentions the phrase "milk and honey" several times, and depicts the Land of Israel as a land flowing with milk and honey. On the three days before we were to receive the Torah, G-d commanded that we refrain from many things in order to prepare ourselves for accepting the Torah. One of the restrictions was to refrain from eating meat in any form. To commemorate that, we eat dairy products on Shavuot.
Another reason for this custom is to commemorate a heroic deed of Yael, a matriarch of Israel. On Shavuot we read from the Book of Judges. The portion read tells of a wicked general who attacked the camp of the Israelites. When he entered the tent of Yael, he was smitten by her beauty. Pretending to welcome him, she offered him milk to drink and cheeses to eat; the food ultimately made him sleepy, whereupon she slew him as he slept. When his army discovered that he had been murdered, they retreated in fear.
Q: Why is the festival called Shavout?
A: From the first day of Passover to Shavuot we count forty- nine days. Forty-nine days is exactly seven weeks, and the word shavuot mean "weeks".
Q: Why is this festival of Shavuot called the holiday of Matan Torah?
A: Matan Torah means the "giving of the Torah". After counting the forty-none days of the Omer, we reach the fiftieth day, which is the first day of the festival of Shavuot. This is the day Moses transmitted the Torah from G-d to the Israelites.
Q: What other names are used for Shavuot and why?
A: Chag Hakatzir is another name, meaning "holiday of the harvest". Shavuot is also known as Chag Habikurim, "holiday of the first fruits." The Israelites were commanded to bring the first fruits of their harvest to the Temple. The priests were ten percent, and all the rest was for the poor. This is to emphasize the fact that everything belongs to G-d, and we are only allowed to use the goodness of the earth temporarily. So we bring our first produce to G-d.
Q: Why do we read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot?
A: Ruth took upon herself the Torah and mitzvot. She also demonstrated the desire to convert to Judaism at whatever cost to her personal well-being. Her life is a paradigm of chesed ("kindness") and modesty. The book begins and ends with acts of kindness. The Talmud calls Ruth the "mother of royalty", listing among her descendants King David, King Solomon, and Messiah (Note: For more about the book of Ruth, please check out this Web page).
Q: Why do we read Akdamot responsively before the Torah reading on Shavuot?
A: The purpose of the Akdamot is to describe for us the tremendous love relationship between G-d and Israel. It also tells of the Almighty's greatness, along with the abiding faith and obedience to G-d and to His Torah on the part of the Jewish people. It is read in the responsive form to demonstrate the reciprocal nature of this relationship that exists between G-d and Israel.