Shavuot is one of the Jewish harvest festivals, also known as the festival or feast of ‘Weeks’. It takes place seven weeks (fifty days) after the first day of the spring festival of Passover and this year starts on the evening of 4 June, ending on the evening on 6 June.
Originally an agricultural festival, marking the beginning of the wheat harvest, the first fruits of the harvest were brought to the Temple, and two loaves of bread made from the new wheat were offered.
Shavuot also marks the time that the Jews were given the Torah (the five books of Moses) on Mount Sinai. Considered a highly important historical event, Shavuot is sometimes called the Jewish Pentecost, with the word Pentecost here referring to the count of fifty days after Passover.
Prayers are said on Shavuot (especially at dawn) to thank God for the five books of Moses (the Torah) and for his law. Some people also spend the first night of Shavuot studying the Torah.
Synagogues are decorated with flowers and plants on this joyous occasion to remember the flowers of Mount Sinai.
Dairy products are eaten during Shavuot. There are many interpretations about why this custom is observed. It is believed that once the rules about the preparation of meat were revealed in the Torah, the people of Sinai were reluctant to eat meat until they fully understood the rules.
Popular Shavuot foods include cheesecake, blintzes, and kugels. Some Sephardic Jews make a seven-layered bread [below] called siete cielos (seven heavens), which is supposed to represent Mt. Sinai.
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