Shavuot, meaning “weeks” in Hebrew, marks the end of the seven-week counting period we begin every year at Passover. It is the time, each year, that we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai to the Israelites, over 3,000 years ago.
It is said that the Torah was given to the Jews just 50 days after leaving slavery in Egypt. This giving of the Torah marks a symbolic covenant between God and the Jewish People, forever changing how the Jewish People interact with God, each other, and the world. Of course, Shavuot is also one of the three pilgrimage holidays of ancient Israel, marking the grain harvest, in which people would bring their harvest to Jerusalem as an offering to God.
There is a wondrous parallel of celebrations here. In one pivotal day in history, Shavuot, a lowly people, recently freed from slavery in a cascade of miracles and utterly dependent on God’s provisions, received the Torah. Fast forward a few years to after the Israelites entered the Promised Land... On that same day, Shavuot, a now strong and free nation, prospering through their own labor on their own land, made annual harvest offerings to God. In this way, Shavuot marks the real completion of the liberation from Egypt, as slaves became a free and prosperous nation.
Shavuot is a “yom tov,” a day without work, marked by many traditions, including: