Over three thousand years ago G-d gave the Jewish people the Torah at Mount Sinai. Ever since then, every year on the festival of Shavuot G-d re-gives and the Jewish people re-accept the Torah. The giving of the Torah is compared to a wedding by the Sages- a wedding between G-d and the Jewish people.
The word Shavuot means "weeks" and marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot, known as the Omer. Shavuot also means "oaths" because on this day, G-d swore eternal devotion to us and we swore eternal loyalty to Him.
Depending on where one lives in the world, the length of the festival of Shavuot varies. For those living in the land of Israel, Shavuot is a one day holiday, beginning at sundown on the fifth of Sivan and ending at nightfall of the sixth of Sivan. For those living outside of Israel, Shavuot begins at sundown on the fifth of Sivan and lasts until nightfall on the seventh of Sivan.
Holiday Candles are lit by women and girls to usher in the festival on the first and second evenings of the holiday (or just the eve of the festival from those living in Israel.
There is a custom to stay up all night learning Torah on the first night of Shavuot. This is due to a Midrash that says that the Jewish people were wrong for sleeping the night before receiving the Torah. In the sixteenth century, Kabbalists living in Israel put together a special collection of selected parts of the Bible, Talmud and Kabbalah that are recited all night as a way of rectifying that mistake.
On the day of Shavuot, the Ten Commandments are read in Synagogue and men, women and children should be present to hear them being read.
As with other Jewish festivals, special meals are eaten and creative work is not performed on the festival.
There is a custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. A number of reasons are given for this custom with one of the most well-known being that when they received the Torah, the Jewish people were obligated in its laws, including the dietary kosher laws. However, they had not yet koshered their pots and pans and they therefore ate dairy foods.
In the Diaspora, on the second day of Shavuot the Yizkor Memorial Service is recited.
Some communities also have the custom to read the Book of Ruth as Shavuot is also the day on which King David- who was a descendant of Ruth- passed on.
An article written by Rivakh Abrahams from Ajudaica.com
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