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Shavuot

Shavuot, known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, dates from biblical times. A Hebrew word meaning "weeks," Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and the anniversary of the beginning of the sacred relationship we have with God, which we are all privileged to be a part of even today. Shavuot is a time to celebrate the Torah and all that it stands for, as well as the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people.

Shavuot, like so many other Jewish holidays, began as an ancient agricultural festival, marking the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. Our ancestors observed it in ancient times by bringing crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Torah tells us it took precisely 49 days for our ancestors to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai where they were to receive the Torah. Thus, Leviticus 23:21 commands: "And you shall proclaim that day (the fiftieth day) to be a holy convocation." The name Shavuot, "Weeks," then symbolizes the completion of a seven-week journey.

One of the special customs of Shavuot is the reading of the Book of Ruth, which reminds us that we too can find a continual source of blessing in our tradition. Another is staying up all night to study Torah and Mishnah, a custom called "Tikkun Leil Shavuot," which symbolizes our commitment to the Torah and our constant readiness to receive the Torah.Traditionally, dairy dishes are served on this holiday to symbolize the sweetness of the Torah, as well as the "land of milk and honey."

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