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       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays



Celebrating Shavuot in a Lodz Jewish kindgergarten

Children wearing wreaths of flowers celebrate Shavuot in a Jewish kindergarten in Lodz, June 1948.
: USHMM, courtesy of Rachela and Lolek Grynfeld


Festival of Weeks

In Biblical times Shavuot was a harvest festival that marked the transition between the end of the barley harvest and the start of the wheat harvest. Today Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jews. Within the Talmud we are told that G-d gave the Jews the Ten Commandments on sixth night of Sivan, a date that normally falls in late May or early June. Shavuot always falls fifty days after the second night of Passover.

During this time within the synagogue, the Ten Commandments are read along with the Book of Ruth (Megilat Rut). The Book of Ruth tells of two women, one a Jewish woman named Naomi, and the wife of her son named Ruth. When Ruth's husband died, Ruth decided to convert to Judaism.

The reason that the Book of Ruth is read during Shavuot is not only because it occurred during the harvest season, but because it signifies our acceptance of the Torah.

During Shavuot, young children traditionally begin Hebrew School at Shavuot, and synagogues are decorated with greenery. Milk and dairy products, such as cheese, are usually taken this day, to symbolize the richness of the Torah.

We may also decorate our synagogues and homes with roses or aromatic spices. This custom is based on midrashim that connect the events at Sinai to spices and roses.

Adapted from Wikipedia and "What is Shavuot?" from

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