“Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks [Chag ha-Shavuot] to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you.” (Deuteronomy 16:10)
Today in Israel and around the world, it is the Biblical holy day of Shavuot(Festival of Weeks).
Last night, people stayed up all night learning Torah. It’s a centuries old custom.
Because of the holiday’s connection to the harvest and to agriculture, the holiday is being marked today by food festivals, picnics, as well as visits to a kibbutz and to the Western (Wailing) Wall, a remnant of the ancient wall that once surrounded the Holy Temple’s courtyard.
It is packed with people praying today. The streets of Jerusalem were packed like this 2,000 years ago when Holy Spirit fire fell and about 3,000 observant Jews were saved.
Crowds gather for a holiday at the Western Wall: the Torah commands
that the Jewish People make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Shelosh
Regalim, the three major festivals of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot
(Weeks), and Sukkot (Tents or Booths).
Biblically speaking, Shavuot is the second of the Shelosh Regalim, three major annual pilgrimages of the Jewish People to Jerusalem. It falls between the other two Shelosh Regalim: Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Booths).
“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 [Passover], the Festival of Weeks [Shavuot] and the Festival of Tabernacles [Sukkot].” (Deuteronomy 16:16)
On Shavuot, the Israelites brought an offering of the first crops of spring to theMishkan (Tabernacle) and later, to the Temple.
It is a time when God commands His people to give a free will offering. Everyone was to bring something, giving in proportion to how He has blessed them.
“No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 16:16–17)
Israeli students celebrate Shavuot with Prime Minister
When each family presented its basket to the Lord before the kohen (priest), they recited the following verses of Scripture:
“My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor.
“Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.
“He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” (Deuteronomy 26:5–10)
Offering of the first fruits
The Many Names of Shavuot
This holiday falls 50 days after Passover; therefore, the Hellenistic Jews (Jews living under Greek rule in the 3rd–4th centuries BC) named it Pentecost, from the Greek word pente, which means fifty.
Most Christians, therefore, know Shavuot by the name Pentecost.
Shavuot is such a multi-faceted holiday that it is also known by other Biblical and traditional names besides Shavuot and Pentecost:
- Yom HaBikurim (Day of the First Fruits) in Numbers 28:26 (but not the Festival of First Fruits in Leviticus 23:9–12);
- Chag HaKatzir (Festival of Reaping) in Exodus 23:16;
- Bikkurei Ketzir Chittim (The First Fruits of the Wheat Harvest) in Exodus 34:22; and
- Z’man Mattan Torateinu (Season of the Giving of the Torah), which is a name arising from Jewish tradition.
The Ten Commandments in Hebrew
Shavuot marks the end of the seven-week period called Sefirat HaOmer (Counting of the Omer), which began at Passover.
On the fiftieth day, a new grain offering is to be presented to the Lord and a sacred assembly held to celebrate the Feast of Shavuot.
“Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:16)
The name of the festival is derived from the Hebrew word shavuah, meaning week. Shavuot (weeks) is the plural form.
“‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks [shavuot].” (Leviticus 23:15)
Golden stalks of wheat in the Jezreel Valley in Israel just before the
Shavuot: The Giving of the Torah
“Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is Mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5–6)
According to traditional Jewish belief, Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Although it is not explicitly stated in Scripture, this is believed to be the day in which the Ten Commandments were given to the nation of Israel seven weeks after their miraculous exodus from Egypt.
More than 3,300 years ago at the foot of the mountain, the Jewish people accepted the privilege and the responsibility of living as God’s “set-apart people.”
The Torah became the agreed upon standard of behavior and code of conduct for both the native-born Israelite and the stranger who lived amidst them.
“The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.” (Numbers 15:16)
A vintage engraving of Moses and the Ten Commandments
Holiday Observances: The Land Flowing with Milk
“He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” (Deuteronomy 26:9–10)
To commemorate this special day, children in Israel typically wear white and carry decorated baskets filled with fruit, vegetables and a dairy product such as cheese.
They also sing holiday songs, and many wear a wreath of flowers around their heads.
Since Shavuot is associated with the giving of the law, all around the world, the Jewish People will attend synagogue today to hear Exodus 19–20, which includes the Ten Commandments.
Last night, in fact, many stayed up all night to study the Torah, a practice calledTikun Leyl Shavuot (Rectification for Shavuot Night).
The Megilat Ruth (Book of Ruth) is also read because the harvest scenes described in Ruth are in keeping with this harvest festival.
Furthermore, since Ruth was a convert to Judaism, her acceptance of the Torah reflects the theme of the receiving of the law. It is also traditionally believed that King David, Ruth’s grandson, was born and died on Shavuot.
Israeli children celebrate Shavuot: the banner reads
Chag Shavuot Sameach (Joyous Feast of Shavuot).
The tradition of eating meals that include dairy products on Shavuot is thought by some to date all the way back to the day Moses presented Israel with the Torah.
After receiving the Torah, the Israelites realized that their meat was not kosher.
Since they were hungry, butchering and cooking fresh meat would have taken too long, so they opted for dairy products.
Although this festival lasts for one day in Israel, outside of Israel, in the Diaspora, it is often celebrated for two days.
Cheese blintzes (a kind of crepe) are the traditional meal on Shavuot,
when dairy products are eaten.
Shavuot: The Giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit)
This ancient Biblical festival is particularly relevant to New Covenant followers of Yeshua (Jesus).
On this very day, the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) came upon Yeshua’s talmidim (disciples) who had been studying all night in the Upper Room. They were waiting according to His final instructions. That outpouring came around 9 a.m. during the morning sacrifices.
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4–8)
What an awesome event in Biblical history!
On Shavuot, the disciples of Yeshua received power from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to be His witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!
“When the day of Shavuot came… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1, 2–4)
Pentecost, by Jean II Restout
Shavuot has significance for all followers of Yeshua, both native born and those “wild branches” grafted into the natural olive tree.
Today, therefore, Messianic Believers in Yeshua are gathering throughout Israel for outdoor picnics where they will worship the Lord and bring their first fruit gifts and offerings.
Without Shavuot, we would not have the power to witness for Yeshua about the Good News of salvation for all people.
Witnessing to the lost about Yeshua does not come from our own might or power, but by the Ruach HaKodesh that came at Shavuot (Pentecost).
Children dance on Shavuot in Israel.
Shavuot: Being Empowered to Live a Holy Life
Shavuot is about giving, because God is, by nature, a giver.
God gave two of His most priceless gifts on this day: the Torah (His Word) and theRuach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).
This holiday emphasizes our need for both Truth and the Spirit of God who empowers us to live holy lives.
The Torah is the Word of Truth that reveals what a holy life looks like, but it is the Ruach that gives us the grace to live out that truth in our daily lives.
The Ruach would not have been poured out, however, if Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) had not come. He is the most precious gift that God gave—eternal salvation through Yeshua HaMashiach.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Shavuot celebrations at Kibbutz Gan-Shmuel in northern Israel
While eternal life is the greatest spiritual blessing we can receive, God also blesses His children materially in so many ways.
We rejoice in the gifts that God has blessed us with, but also in the Giver of those gifts.
Likewise, we are to be givers, too. The Bible reminds us to share what God has given us with those who are in need.
To illustrate this kind of generosity, God commanded the Israelites not to harvest their entire fields. The corners were to be left for the poor.
“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.” (Leviticus 23:22)
The Book of Ruth and Shavuot
In the Book of Ruth, we read that Ruth, who was both poor and an alien, sought to provide for her mother-in-law Naomi by gleaning the grain left by the harvesters.
As it turned out, she found herself gleaning in the fields of Boaz, a God-fearing man who obeyed the commandments of Adonai (Lord).
When Boaz discovered that Ruth had come back to Israel with his relative Naomi, he went far and above the law’s requirements in leaving grain behind for her. (Ruth 1:22, 2:1–9, 15–16)
Ruth was astonished by his benevolence and asked why he had taken special notice of her, a foreigner.
Boaz replied, “It has been fully reported to me the kindness you have shown to your mother in law.” (Ruth 2:11)
Ruth in the Field of Boaz, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
After Ruth harvested for about seven weeks in Boaz’s fields—probablycorresponding to the time of the Counting of the Omer and Shavuot—Naomi devised a plan of action so that Ruth would not live out the rest of her days as an impoverished widow.
Her plan was that Boaz would act as Ruth’s Kinsman-Redeemer, so she sent Ruth to the threshing floor to sleep at his feet.
When Boaz awoke in the middle of the night and found her there, she essentially asked him for a pledge of marriage by saying, “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” (Ruth 3:9; see Ezekiel 16:8)
Although Boaz was not obliged to act on behalf of this poor widow, he did. He eventually married Ruth, and King David and Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) come from that lineage.
Though the Book of Ruth opens with a tragic ending, it closes with a new beginning—one that would eventually benefit all of mankind.
Like Boaz, our Kinsmen-Redeemer, Yeshua HaMashiach takes notice of all the kindness you show to the Jewish People, who like Naomi came back to the Holy Land after losing everything in exile.
During this harvest festival, please pray that the Lord of the Harvest (Adon HaKatzir)will send forth more laborers into the harvest fields of Israel and that the harvest of souls into His Kingdom will be plentiful! (Matthew 9:37–38)
“Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you.” (Deuteronomy 16:10)
Wishing you a joyous Shavuot…
“May a full reward be given you by the God of Israel under whose wings you have taken refuge.” (Ruth 2:12)