Shavuot is one of the feasts that is prescribed to be celebrated by the Torah. It is also known as the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost in Christian tradition (Leviticus 23:15-22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12).
ASPECTS OF THE FESTIVAL IN TERMS OF THE TORAH AND BRIT CHADASHAH
In Biblical Israel, on this holiday, as well as on Pesach and Sukkot, all of the male population had to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship God in the Temple, “Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles” (Deuteronomy 16:16). Therefore, Shavuot is the so-called “Festival of Pilgrims”. At the time when there was a large Jewish diaspora in existence, especially during the period of the Roman Empire, many Jewish people throughout the Empire and from other countries were inclined to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on Shavuot. People of other nations who had believed in the God of Israel, sometimes called “those who honored God”, also joined the Jewish people. Some of them became proselytes, converted to Judaism and began observing the prescriptions of the Torah. In the Book of Acts 2:9-11, it speaks of a large number of pilgrims in Jerusalem on Shavuot, "Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs...”
The name of Shavuot is derived from the Torah prescriptions. The word "Shavuot" means "weeks". “Shavua” in Hebrew is “week” or “seven days”. The Torah prescribes to celebrate Shavuot seven weeks after the first day of Pesach, "From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord." (Leviticus 23: 15-16).
TRADITIONS OF SHAVUOT
The Jewish people have some interesting and useful traditions connected with Shavuot. For instance, on the eve of the holiday, adults and children make biblical themed paper cut outs and decorate windows with them. There is also a custom on Shavuot of decorating synagogues and houses with green tree branches, roses and fragrant herbs. Herbs remind us that Mount Sinai was covered with grass (as a tradition says), although it was located in the desert at the time when God gave the Torah to the Jewish people. There is an ancient legend about tree branches and roses. According to it, one king wanted to cut down his garden because it was overgrown with thorns. After noticing a rose in the garden, he changed his mind. In the same way, the Torah is compared to a rose among the thorns.
Also, according to the Jewish tradition, on Shavuot it is customary to eat dairy products and farinaceous food like cheese, farmer cheese, sour cream, pancakes with farmer cheese, pies and honey cakes. The rationale for this is that the Torah for the Jewish people is as sweet and pleasant as milk and honey.
May the Word of God and its implementation be pleasant as milk and honey for everyone!
By the way, Shavuot 2017 starts the evening of May 30 and continues to the evening of May 31 (outside of Israel till the evening of June 1).