The holiday of Shavuot falls on Sunday night, May 16, 2021.
Seven weeks after Passover, we mark the festival of Shavuot (“Weeks” or “Pentecost”) — also known in our tradition as z’man matan toratenu—“The Time of the Giving of Our Torah.” While the holiday’s Biblical origins lie in an agricultural harvest celebration, in our time it has become primarily a commemoration and reenactment of the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai to Moses and the Israelites. On Passover, we were physically freed from slavery; on Shavuot, our freedom is given purpose—we are free in order to serve God according to the dictates of the Torah. Shavuot is celebrated with an all-night study session called tikkun leil Shavuot. It is also common to eat cheesecake and other dairy foods, since the Torah is likened to milk and honey.
“Torah” has multiple meanings within Jewish tradition. It refers to the content of the first five books of the Bible (Humash). It refers to the scroll upon which the five books are written and used in Jewish liturgy and ritual. But Torah is also an expansive term, referring to the chain of interpretation of Jewish texts, to the entire unfolding body of Jewish tradition, and to the commitment to Torah as a basis of living one’s life in a way that manifests holiness. To accept the Torah today means associating with the Jewish people, agreeing to engage seriously with Jewish tradition, and working toward reinvigorating Jewish life and practice.1
1. Adapted from A Guide to Jewish Practice, Volume 2—Shabbat and Holidays. The Guide may be ordered from the Reconstructionist Press.
Selected Shavuot Resources
Shavuot is a time of Jewish learning when Jews around the world gather to re-encounter Torah in all of its senses. We've brought together study materials, audio programs, and more for you. May your study be sweet!