Then you will keep the Feast of Shavuot to Adonai your God with a measure of a freewill offering from your hand, which you are to give according to how Adonai your God blesses you. - Deuteronomy 16:10
Shavuot occurs seven weeks after Passover and follows the counting of the Omer, which is a 49-day period between Passover and the Shavuot holiday. Therefore, Shavuot falls exactly 50 days after the first night of Passover and is traditionally observed on the sixth day of the Jewish month of Sivan. This year Shavuot will begin at sunset on May 16th and lasts until sunset the following day.
THE FEAST OF SHAVUOT, OR PENTECOST, IS KNOWN BY SEVEN DIFFERENT NAMES:
“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end.” Exodus 34:22
The name for Shavuot is also called Atzeret Pesach in Hebrew, the “Gathering Rally of Passover”. This is because the beginning of the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt is celebrated on Passover (Lev. 23:15-16). This feast symbolizes the integration of the most important values instilled in the people of Israel: the value of the physical freedom gained by the children of Israel upon their exodus from Egypt, and the value of the spiritual freedom that they attained upon receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. Both of these values are reflected in the various names that have been given to this holiday:
1. Shavuot This is the common name for this holiday; as it is written in the Scriptures:
“Then you will keep the Feast of Shavuot to Adonai your God with a measure of a freewill offering from your hand, which you are to give according to how Adonai your God blesses you.” (Deuteronomy 16:10)
2. Feast of the Harvest - חג הקציר
The holiday occurs during the harvest period, in the late spring and the beginning of the summer. This is a time when farmers celebrate the harvest of their crops. When the Temple was still in existence, farmers used to bring a special sacrifice to the Temple. This sacrifice, called “The Two Breads”, consisted of bread loaves baked from the first fruits of the wheat harvest, as stated in the Torah. The feast holds an agricultural nature, and thus it is emphasized in the Scriptures.
3. The Feast of First Fruits - חג הביכורים
According to the Scriptures, Shavuot is one of the designated times for bringing the first fruits to Jerusalem. The first fruits were chosen from among the seven species that thrived in the land of Israel: "a land of wheat and barley and vine and fig and pomegranate, a land flowing with milk and honey." (Deuteronomy 8: 8)
4. Feast of the Giving of The Torah - חג מתן תורה
This name for the holiday is based on Talmudic sources, which claim that on the 6th day of the month of Sivan God gave the Torah to the children of Israel by the hand of Moses at Mount Sinai.
5. The Day of Assembly - יום הקהל
This holiday also commemorates the gathering of the children of Israel in preparation for the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
6. The First Fruits of the Wheat Harvest ביכורי קציר חיטים
“Also on the day of the first fruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.” (Numbers 28:26)
7. The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit - הופעת רוח הקודש
“When the day of Shavuot had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And tongues like fire spreading out appeared to them and settled on each one of them. They were all filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh (the Holy Spirit) and began to speak in other tongues as the Ruach enabled them to speak out.” (Acts 2:1-4)
Shavuot is observed around the world by listening to the 10 Commandments recited in synagogues and by staying awake through the night to read Scripture, especially the Book of Ruth. It is unclear exactly how the Jewish tradition of reading the book of Ruth on Shavuot developed. However, many believe that it has to do with the season when Shavuot occurs. It is widely speculated that Ruth came to settle in the Land of Israel around the time that the Feast of Shavuot is observed, one reason being that the story takes place during the harvest period. Many Jews also believe that Ruth’s acceptance by the Jewish people is symbolic of the Jewish people's acceptance of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Another reason why we read the book of Ruth during Shavuot is that in the story, Ruth took it upon herself to be united with Naomi and the Jewish people. Many also view the giving of the Spirit on Shavuot as a renewing or restoration of the true Scriptures.
Some particularly notable details in the text are the redemption of the land, concern for the stranger and the widow, strong family ties, feelings of obligation towards relatives, and the issue of marriage to foreign women. However, the common denominator in all of these seemingly unrelated themes is the attribute of loving-kindness. The deeds of the main figures in the Megillah are depicted in detail, with frequent emphasis on the fact that each of them acted with loving-kindness, within the letter of the law.
"Loving-kindness" stands at the center of the Book of Ruth.
Naomi cares for her daughter-in-law Ruth, and Ruth cares for her mother-in-law Naomi. In the relationship between Boaz and Ruth, it is also felt that each of them is acting out of loving-kindness to one another. Even linguistically, the importance of kindness in the book of Ruth is prominent. The word "chesed" (kindness) appears three times in the Megillah, and each time it is connected with a blessing from God. The trust and bond reflected in the relationship between Ruth and Naomi is a symbol of the love between the Jewish people and the Gentile believers who love and connect to the Jewish people--those who follow the Jewish Messiah and love the God of Israel.
Ruth’s character is also a beautiful picture of how the Gentile believers within the Body of Messiah are connected to the Jewish people.
The Feast of Shavuot is a time to rejoice over the first fruits that the Lord has produced in our lives. It is also a time to celebrate the incredible love and grace God has given us in choosing to call us His people. We have the Holy Spirit as the ultimate Comforter, and we have a powerful bond--the friendship between Jews and non-Jews.
“Ruth replied, ‘Do not plead with me to abandon you, to turn back from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.’" - Ruth 1:16
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