By Rabbi Alan Lucas
Excerpted from The Observant Life
Shavuot falls on the sixth and seventh days of the Hebrew month of Sivan. (The festival is observed only on the sixth of Sivan in Israel.) Like Sukkot and Passover, it is a multi-dimensional holiday, embracing profound historical, spiritual, and agricultural aspects.
From the agricultural perspective, Shavuot marks the end of the counting of the omerthat began on Passover, but it is also referred to in the Torah at Numbers 28:26 as yom ha-bikkurim (the day of first fruits) and at Exodus 23:16 as hag ha-katzir, the harvest festival. In Israel, especially on the agricultural kibbutzim, much has been made of this aspect of the festival, and elaborate ceremonies involving the first fruits of the harvest season have been developed. Outside of Israel, many synagogues attempt to incorporate this theme by adorning their sanctuaries with flowers or other symbols of the fertile earth.
The historical dimension of the festival has to do with the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which, according to tradition, took place on the sixth day of Sivan. This theme is especially prominent liturgically, as Shavuot is repeatedly called z'man matan torateinu (the time of the giving of our Torah).
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