Shavuot is known as Atzeret and Zman Matan Toratenu – the season of the giving of our Law. Its date is not given in the Torah directly; rather, as the completion of the counting of seven complete weeks of the Omer.
The festival is associated with dairy foods such as cheesecake. According to one tradition, the Children of Israel were gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai 1313 BCE (2448); they knew that there would be dietary laws and consequently they restricted themselves to milk products until they found out what was in store.
We now prepare ourselves fully to receive the Torah through the Tikkun Leyl - by studying through the night and davvening as early as possible.
Shavuot is also known as Chag HaBikkurim - the festival of the first fruits. In Temple times, the farmers used to present their first fruits in the Temple in Jerusalem with a special declaration or “confession”. In this, they remembered that though their ancestors were idolaters, they had accepted the way of Hashem and that He had guided them out of Egypt and promised to guide them into Israel.
While Pesach commemorates the Exodus, the Bikkurim are a symbol of God's fulfilment of His undertaking. On Shavuot, it is customary to decorate the shul with flowers and baskets of fruit.
On the first day of Shavuot the Ten Commandments are read in shul.
The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot. It is appropriate for many reasons. It tells of Ruth’s willing acceptance of the Torah; it is set in the harvest festival and it establishes Ruth as the great grandmother of King David, who was born and died on the festival.
Image by Gruven Reuven