The holiday of Shavuot, which this year occurs on Sunday, May 27, is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three major Jewish pilgrimage festivals (along with Succot and Pesach).
Shavuot is a Hebrew word meaning "weeks" and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. 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. Shavuot was distinguished in ancient times by bringing crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Shavuot, also known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, dates from biblical times, and helps to explain the holiday's name, "Weeks." The Torah tells us it took precisely forty-nine days for our ancestors to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai (the same number of days as the Counting of the Omer) 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.
Special customs on Shavuot are the reading of the Book of Ruth, which reminds us that we too can find a continual source of blessing in our tradition. Anther tradition includes staying up all night to study Torah and Mishnah, a custom called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which symbolizes our commitment to the Torah, and that we are always ready and awake 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".
In festival spirit, here’s a Shavuot quiz for you. See how many of the following questions you can answer correctly:
1) The Book of the Bible that is read publicly on Shavuot is . . .
a. "Megillat Shir HaShirim"
b. "The House that Ruth Built"
c. "Megillat Ruth"
2) A delicious treat associated with Shavuot is…
a. chicken soup with matzah balls
b. sweet and sour chicken
c. cheese blintzes
3) Megillat Ruth (the Book of Ruth) is about the origin of . . .
a. King Saul
b. King Charles
c. King David
4) The Torah was given on Mount . . .
5 )A custom of the Jewish people is to . .
a. read the Haggadah all night on Shavuot
b. eat cheese cake all night on Shavuot
c. study Torah all night on Shavuot
6) The word "Regalim", as used in the expression "Three Regalim" comes from the word for:
a. the hand
b. the nose
c. the foot
7) The word "Shavuot" means . . .
8) Ruth was a(n) . . .
a. Indian princess
b. loyal mother-in-law
c. loyal daughter-in-law
9) Shavuot is NOT the holiday of . . .
a. "bikkurim" (first fruits)
b. the giving of the Torah
c. matzah and maror
Barbara G. Margulis
P.S. [If you selected all the “c” choices, you’re a Shavuot Maven. MAZEL TOV!]