The Festival of Weeks
Calendar for 2021: Starts at sunset on May 16 and ends at sunset on May 18
Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals described in the Torah (Five Books of Moses), the other two being Passover and Sukkot. Translated as “weeks,” the Jewish holiday of Shavuot occurs 50 days after the first seder. This period between Passover and Shavuot represents the Jewish people’s liberation from their enslavement in Egypt (that is celebrated at Passover) and leads up to the giving of the Torah to the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai.
Shavuot takes place on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, which is generally between May 15 and June 14. It is also an agricultural holiday that coincides with the start of wheat harvesting in Israel and the conclusion of the spring barley harvest. In Israel, Jews celebrate it for one day while in the Diaspora Conservative and Orthodox Jews celebrate it for two days (and Reform Jews for one).
How is Shavuot celebrated?
During the times when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, Israelite men made pilgrimages to this city, bringing with them their offerings of the first fruits from their harvest.
Today, in addition to abstaining from work, there are certain prayers and traditions associated with our modern commemoration. The book of Ruth is read, and individuals participate in Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an evening-long study session taking place on the first night of the holiday. It is traditional in many congregations for members to get together all night and study Torah and other Jewish-focused subjects. In many Reform congregations, confirmation for both male and female teens takes place at this time. It is also a tradition to only eat dairy on Shavuot, although some Jewish communities, such as Jews from Yemen, do eat meat during this holiday.
Recipes for Shavuot
There are several different reasons offered for only eating dairy products and the refraining from meat. According to one rabbinic tradition, the Torah is compared to “honey and milk” in chapter 4, verse 11 of The Songs of Songs. As Shavuot celebrates the giving of Torah to the Jewish people, dairy is an apt symbol. Many Jewish cookbooks include recipes for noodle kugels, dairy desserts such as cheesecake, and blintzes for this reason.
Try these Shavuot recipes from ReformJudaism.org!