The Feast of Weeks
Shavuot, which we begin celebrating next Tuesday night (June 7th), is the only holiday in the Torah not listed by the date on which it is to be observed. Rather, the Torah teaches that this festival takes place on the day following the 49th day after the first day of Passover (see Counting of the Omer). 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 Fruit 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, expresses the 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.
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 our 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 mundane.
*This Treat was originally published on May 21, 2009. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand the holiday of Shavuot.
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