Shavuot is one of the Shlosh Regalim, or Three Festivals. In times when the Holy Temple still stood in Jerusalem, the Israelites made pilgrimage to the Temple for these three holidays. In those times the traditions of the holidays were somewhat similar.
Today, Shavuot is rather different from the other two Pilgrimage Festivals. The other two are Passover and Sukkot. Both of these holidays have very specific traditions and meanings. At Passover there is the restriction of leavened products and the Seder and at Sukkot we build the Sukkah and have the tradition of the Lulav.
Modern Shavuot traditions are much less defined. Yes, there is the tradition to eat dairy foods. However, there is no grand tradition such as on the other two festivals. But let’s not sell Shavuot short just because there are no well-known traditions. The meaning and significance of Shavuot is at the very heart of Biblical traditions.
First and foremost, Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This event is as significant today as it was thousands of years ago. The ultimate message of Shavuot is the relationship between the Torah and the people of HaShem, as a community and as individuals.
The beauty of the Torah is a living document that relates to each of us. It was not intended to be only for a select group of people to study, digest and explain to the rest of us. It was designed for all followers of G-d, it was meant to be embraced and internalized by each of us. Biblical scholars are a wonderful asset and bring light unto the Torah. However, it is each of us using the Torah in our daily lives that makes the Torah shine outward into the world. On Mount Sinai every man, woman and child had an encounter with G-d. Generation upon generation has passed down this great gift from G-d.
So this Shavuot let us remember how important we each are to the life of the Torah. We also need to reach out to those who have not experienced the Torah first hand so they too can see its beauty.
This same concept is extended through the miraculous and amazing event that occurred on the first Shavuot following Yeshua’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. As the followers of the Way gathered in Jerusalem for the Holy Day, they experienced the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit as evidenced by being able to understand each other perfectly although they naturally spoke many different languages. Peter put it this way: [Act 2:33 NASB] “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of G-d, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” Just as the Torah was given to the people in written form on Sinai, so too they received the Torah written on their hearts that day in Jerusalem.
Shavuot is also an agricultural holiday. It occurs exactly 50 days after Passover and is the culmination of the Counting of the Omer. In Temple time the people brought bikkurim or first fruits from the newly harvested crop as an offering. However, since the destruction of the Temple the commandment can no longer be fulfilled.
However, the kibbutzim and moshavim of Israel have kept part of this tradition alive. As the wheat and barley is harvested all over Israel, on Shavuot there are special celebrations for those who grow the substance for the nation. It is such a special time that 100,000 Israelis from cities flock to these rural communities for the festivities.
Donning white shirts the kibbutz and moshav members come together bringing the products produced in the community. They walk in the fields, sing, dance, eat foods of dairy and wear wreaths of the flowers. It is a beautiful holiday and something very special to experience.