Why Celebrating Shavuot? Matan and Dvar Torah
Shavuot commemorates the day when according to Jewish tradition, God revealed the entire Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.
The devout avoid cutting their hair, for this is a season for preparing oneself to receive the Torah, a time for study and meditation.
How Is Shavuot Celebrated?
Like all Jewish holidays, it begins the night before. At home, Jews conduct the customary candle-lighting ceremony and blessings, making Kiddush over wine or grape juice and the blessing over the bread (usually two loaves), before enjoying a festive holiday meal.
Shavout History and Agriculture Meaning
Just like Passover and Sukkot, the other two pilgrimage festivals when Jews traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate and give thanks at the Temple, Shavuot is laden with both historical and agricultural importance.
Unlike those other two festivals, however, Shavuot is not a lengthy holiday: It lasts for only one day (or two days, in the case of more traditional Diaspora Jews).
Despite its religious significance, the Torah itself first mentions Shavuot as an agricultural festival marking the transition between the barley harvest and the start of the wheat-ripening season.
Before the destruction of the Temple, Jews used this brief respite from work to travel to Jerusalem, to celebrate and offer sacrifices at the Temple.
After the destruction of the First Temple, many pilgrims continued to come from Babylon. Communities that could not send all their members dispatched a representative delegation.
After the razing of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., pilgrimages became impossible. Hence, the focus of the holiday shifted from its dual agricultural and spiritual importance to emphasize the spiritual aspect.
Why Jews Eat Dairy on Shavuot?
Tradition holds that Jews should have at least one dairy meal during Shavuot. One explanation is that it serves as a reminder of God’s promise to deliver the Hebrews into a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8).
Another explanation suggests that when the Hebrews received the Torah (which includes the dietary laws), they did not yet have separate meat and dairy dishes and thus had to eat only dairy until they could have proper utensils. A more symbolic explanation is that Jews eat dairy because the Hebrews were as innocent as newborns, whose only food is milk.