Feast of Weeks

30th May 2003 at 01:00
The Jewish festival of Shavuot is observed this year from June 5 to 7.

Shavuot is also called the Feast of Weeks. Originally a spring festival, it celebrates the first fruits of the harvest. More importantly, it now also marks the giving of the Law to Moses.

At this time of year, most synagogues look as if they are holding a flower festival. They are decorated with lilies and other flowers. There may be sheaves of corn or barley and the people will meet for a kind of all-night party.

For Jews this is an early harvest festival, celebrating that spring is turning into summer and the land is producing its first crops. It's a time for eating dairy products as a reminder they had been promised their new home would be a land "flowing with milk and honey". Nowadays, a favourite food is cheesecake.

It occurs seven weeks (or "a week of weeks") after Passover. At this time, Jews remember how, after escaping from slavery in Egypt, they travelled through the desert. When they reached Mount Sinai, Moses went up the mountain and was given the Ten Commandments.

Jews not only celebrate this but recall how they accepted the authority of these laws. Many now spend a whole night in the synagogue, studying the law and listening to the story of Ruth who accepted the Law of God.

Follow up

The story of the Giving of the Law is told in Exodus chapter 19. Discuss the Ten Commandments (Exodus chapter 20). Do they cover all the laws we need today? Would you need laws if you lived alone on a desert island? Which Commandments would a good Jew still have to observe there?

Re-tell the story of Ruth.

More about Shavuot at: www.bod.org.ukfestivalsshavuot Activities for younger children: www.torahtots.comholidaysshavuosshavuot

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