Shavout also know as, the “Feast of Weeks,” is celebrated seven weeks after Passover (Pesach). Since the counting of this period (sefirat ha-omer) begins on the second evening of Passover, Shavuot takes place exactly 50 days after the (first) seder. Although its origins are to be found in an ancient grain harvest festival, Shavuot has long been identified with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.


In effect, Shavuot combines two major religious observances. First is the grain harvest of the early summer. Second is the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt.

In the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, the ancient Israelites brought their first fruits (first harvest of their crop) to the Temple to offer to God at Shavuot, 49 days after Passover. (The name Shavuot, literally “weeks,” symbolizes the completion of this seven-week period.) In Leviticus 23:21, the Torah commands: “And you shall proclaim that day to be a holy convocation!”

After the Temple was destroyed and the Israelites could no longer bring the first fruits of their harvest as offerings, Talmudic rabbis reframed the holiday. The Rabbis ascribed Shavuot to the biblical story which recounts how, after the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites proceeded to Mount Sinai in the desert. Moses ascended the mountain to meet God, who gave him the Ten Commandments, which were written on two tablets to be delivered to the Israelites.

How is Shavuot celebrated? Shavuot is observed by lighting candles both nights, staying up the first night to study Torah, decorating homes with flowers and other plants, attending synagogue services to hear the 10 Commandments, reading the Book of Ruth, and eating festive meals, with an emphasis on including dairy foods and abstaining from work.  In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Jews who have studied Torah the whole night walk to the Kotel (Western Wall) at the break of dawn to recite the morning (Shacharit) service.

There are many different essential messages of Shavuot but at the heart of it is renewing our commitment to the Torah and God, reaffirming our faithfulness and responsibility for each other, learning the Torah and celebrating our identity as Jews.