Shavuot: A Time of Culmination
Shavuot, beginning the evening of June 7 and ending at sundown on June 9, is a complicated but lovely holiday, which weaves two strands of tradition together. From the Torah we inherit an agricultural celebration that marks the end of the grain harvest, which began during Pesach.
From later tradition and self-conscious Rabbinic “reconstruction” we receive the spiritual meaning of Shavuot. We mark the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt; “Revelation” of the Torah follows directly from the experience of Exodus. The understanding is that we are freed not only for the sake of liberation from slavery but in order to enter into a covenant between God and Israel.
There is an abundance of agricultural customs: bringing baskets of first fruits to temple, ‘greening’ the shul by decorating with flowers, branches, and the special Jewish papercuts known as shavuosl (after Shavuos) or raizelach (after raizel/rose – because of their floral designs).
You can download templates and make your own! Click these links:
We sing Hallel, up-beat songs about the wonders of nature and the miracle of redemption. We read the Book of Ruth, an incomparable story of displacement, homecoming, and the future as well as the section of Torah with the Ten Commandments. And then there are the blintzes…
Basic & in-depth information about Shavuot, its themes, rituals, texts (look on left side for choices):
Why do we eat blintzes and cheesecake?
Why we decorate our synagogues with flowers and branches and papercuts: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Shavuot/TO_Shavuot_Community/Decorations_644.htm
Examples of beautiful Jewish papercutting art, introduction to this revived art (examples on page 2 of the site):
Lively “radio show” on Shavuot in the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation Audio Resources, http://http://jrf.org/showres&rid=126. You need RealPlayer on your computer (easy and free and the Shavuot link will send you there).