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Pentecost and Shavout

27 April, 200927 April, 2009 1 comments Uncategorized Uncategorized


Shavuot is called chag ha-bikkurim, Festival of the First Fruits, as well as chag ha-katzir, Festival of the Harvest. It comes after the counting of the Omer ­ a 49-day period which begins on the second day of Passover. Rabbincally speaking, Shavuot is directly connected to another monumental event that has no specific date, since it and the giving of the Torah both occurred in the month of Sivan.

Most English translators interpret Shavuot to mean Pentecost; a Greek word that signifies the number 50. Pentecost commemorates the Holy Spirit's descent upon the Apostles to begin the church's mission to the world. While according to the Christian canon the event occurred on Shavuot, Pentecost and Shavuot are two separate holidays.

The main source for all biblical holidays is Leviticus 23. Shavuot, literally translated as the Festival of Weeks, occurs right after the discussion of Passover. When the Jewish people are living in Israel, it requires the fruits of the new harvest to be brought to the Temple. An offering of two loaves of bread would accompany the required animal sacrifices. While scripture indicates the holiday is primarily an agricultural one, a verse in Deuteronomy (16:12) reveals that Shavuot is also a continuation of the Passover holiday: You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt.

The word "remember" in Hebrew is zachor ­ an active recollection requiring specific commemorative measures. It is the same word used in Exodus 12:14 (This day shall become a remembrance for you) and in Exodus -13:3 (Remember this day which you departed from Egypt.)

Verbalizing the many events surrounding the Exodus fulfills these biblical mandates and has formed the cornerstone of the Passover meal that we celebrate today. The zachor of Passover is supposed to make the individual go back in time and experience the slavery and redemption of Egypt.

US news anchor Walter Cronkite once hosted a CBS-TV program, You Are There, which used network correspondents to report historical events from days well before radio and television. Audiences thus felt they were actually experiencing past history. Zachor is the biblical version of You Are There.

With all the memories that zachor invokes for those celebrating Passover today, it's important to realize that the Israelites who actually ate the first Paschal lamb were still in a state of bondage. For them it was a festival of faith and hope. Complete salvation would come only when the Torah was given and the Israelites arrived in the land of Israel.

The count between Passover and Shavuot is the count between redemption promised and redemption realized.  The leavened bread of Shavuot signifies complete redemption. The zachor of Shavuot is the culmination of the zachor of Passover.

Counting the Omer between Passover and Shavuot is more than just another agricultural acknowledgement of God as Creator. While Jews were enslaved, time had no meaning. At the taskmasters' whim an individual was called to duty at any hour of the day or night. But freedom comes with responsibility! From a biblical perspective, freedom doesn't mean you can do whatever you wish. Time is not to be wasted, but used to glorify God's kingdom on earth.  Using the blueprint of the Torah as a covenant to live a godly life would make Israel a light unto the nations.

Connecting the possible date of the Sinatic revelation with the festival of Shavuot is only natural; since the Ten Commandments begins with I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt. It was that personal redemption from servitude that we must be grateful to God and act in a covenanted fashion to the members of humanity.

In Judaism, the celebration of Shavuot is all about God as redeemer. It is a direct relationship that fulfilled the Covenant of the Pieces. Pentecost is the celebration of the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinitarian doctrine. Therefore, from a Jewish perspective, the two events have little in common.


  • By Anonymous 3261 Days Ago
    0 points    
    Shavuot is a special holiday and one of my favorites. I like everyone wearing white clothes and the dairy food.
    I would like to invite you visiting the following page, where I posted some recipes for Shavuot (like the Caramel Pecan Cheesecake). I'd be glad to get your comments: Shavuot recipes, at chefkosher.com
    Reply to this comment

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