Chapter: 13 – Shavu’ot

01. Shavu’ot and Its Relationship with Pesaḥ

There are four names for the festival of Shavu’ot: Shavu’ot, as we read: “Then you shall observe the Festival of Weeks (Ḥag Shavu’ot) for the Lord your God” (Devarim 16:10). The Harvest Festival (Ḥag Ha-katzir), as we read: “the Festival … Continue reading

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02. Preparation and Purification During Sefirat Ha-omer

The relationship between God and the Jewish people is compared to that of a bride and groom, as we read: “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Yeshayahu 62:5). In a similar vein, … Continue reading

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03. The Time of the Giving of the Torah

From the time of creation, the earth was filled with trepidation, for “God made a condition with the works of creation, saying: ‘If the Jews accept the Torah, you will endure; if not, I will return you to primordial chaos’” … Continue reading

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04. Ḥag Ha-Katzir

The names of the festivals reflect the agricultural seasons in which they take place. Thus we read: “Three times a year, you shall hold a festival for Me: You shall observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Pesaḥ) – eating unleavened … Continue reading

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05. Yom Ha-Bikurim

Shavu’ot is also referred to as Yom Ha-bikurim, as we read: “On the day of the first fruits (yom ha-bikurim), your Festival of Weeks, when you bring an offering of new grain to the Lord, you shall observe a sacred … Continue reading

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06. Atzeret

In rabbinic literature, the festival of Shavu’ot is called Atzeret. At first glance, this is surprising. The Torah refers to the last day of Pesaḥ as Atzeret, and refers to the day following the seven days of Sukkot as Shemini … Continue reading

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07. Extra Joy – Spiritual and Physical

The joy on Shavu’ot is intense and unique. Therefore, as we saw above (1:6), even R. Eliezer concedes that on Shavu’ot one must have a festive meal, because this is the day on which the Torah was given. This is … Continue reading

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08. Shavu’ot Night Learning

Many joyfully study Torah all night long on Shavu’ot. The reason for this custom is explained in the Zohar: “The early pious ones did not sleep that night, but would busy themselves with Torah…thus when the rabbis gathered at the … Continue reading

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09. What to Study

There are two customs regarding what material to study on Shavu’ot night, both of which are perfectly fine. The first custom is the one established by the kabbalists and called Tikun Leil Shavu’ot. According to this custom, one recites the … Continue reading

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10. Birkhot Ha-shaḥar and Other Laws for Those Who Remain Awake All Night

Even one who did not sleep at night recites the morning berakhot (Birkhot Ha-shaḥar). Since they are meant to express our thanks for all the good that we experience daily, they are recited even by one who does not benefit … Continue reading

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11. Reading the Ten Commandments from the Torah and Whether to Stand

Our Sages ordained that the Torah reading on Shavu’ot be about the revelation at Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The haftara is from the beginning of Yeḥezkel, where the heavenly chariot is described (Megilla 31a; SA … Continue reading

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12. Megillat Rut

It is customary to read the Book of Rut on Shavu’ot. According to the Midrash, this is “to teach you that the Torah is acquired only through poverty and suffering…. The Torah asked of God: ‘Master of the universe, throw … Continue reading

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13. Decorating the Synagogue

Many decorate the synagogue with pretty, fragrant branches and plants, in honor of the Torah that was given on Shavu’ot. Since Torah adds life, it is customary to decorate the synagogue with plants or branches, which symbolize life. This custom … Continue reading

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14. Dairy Foods and Honey

The custom to eat dairy and honey on Shavu’ot is a custom that goes back over 600 years, to the time of the Rishonim. The custom originated in France and Germany, and spread from there to many Jewish communities. However, … Continue reading

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15. The Six Days Following Shavu’ot

When the Temple stood, there was a mitzva to make a pilgrimage three times a year, once on each festival, and to offer an ola and shelamim on the first day of the festival. These offerings were referred to as … Continue reading

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