Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Feast of Weeks

Shavuot, which we begin celebrating this Thursday night (May 28, 2020), is the only holiday listed in the Torah without the date on which it is to be observed. Rather, the Torah states that this festival takes place on the day following the 49th day after the first day of Passover (see Counting of the Omer), the day on which the Omer Sacrifice was offered. The name Shavuot, therefore, reflects the fact that this holiday occurs seven complete weeks (shavuot) after Passover. In mystical terms, the number 7 represents the natural order of things, and so, a complete, natural cycle has occurred.

The natural cycle that has been completed is agricultural. Therefore, the holiday is also called Chag Ha'bikurim, the Holiday of the First Fruits, and is the time when the offering of the first fruits of the harvest was brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem as a gesture of thanksgiving for the successful crop.

Seven times seven days, the count of 49, reflects a complete natural cycle. But, Shavuot takes place one day after the seven weeks--one step beyond the natural cycle. It is, therefore, also representative of an event beyond nature as well.

When the Israelites left Egypt, the people acted as though they were merely cousins bonded by mutual misery. By the end of seven weeks, however, at the base of Mount Sinai, the former slaves rose above their human limitations and, by accepting the Torah, took upon themselves a total commitment to God, the final step in becoming the Nation of Israel. Shavuot is therefore also known as Z'man Matan Torateinu, the time of the giving of the Torah.

Like all holidays on the Jewish calendar, Shavuot celebrates both the "mundane" and the holy, and, in this way, reminds us that nothing in life is really mundane.

*This Treat was originally posted on May 21, 2009. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand the holiday of Shavuot.

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