• Light of Torah

Shavuot . . . . Pentecost

This weekend, at sundown on 4 June 2022, Jewish communities commence the Jewish festival of Shavuot. Meanwhile, many Christians celebrate, or anticipate, the feast of Pentecost.

The Jewish Festival of Shavuot (shavuot is Hebrew for ‘weeks’) occurs fifty days after Passover. (‘Fiftieth day’ in Greek is pentekoste: ‘Pentecost.’)

Here we explore Shavuot’s themes under four headings: Reaping the Harvest, Giving the Torah, Counting the Days, Pondering the Text. Before reading further, open your Bible to Deuteronomy 16:9-11 and read about this ancient, joyous harvest festival in the Torah.

At its core, Shavuot today celebrates the ‘Giving of the Torah,’ that dramatic event on Mount Sinai (Exodus19-20) from which Moses emerges with the two stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments. In the process of translation, the Mount Sinai revelation is spoken of as the giving of the ‘Law.’

Unfortunately, ‘Law’ is often heard in the popular Christian mindset as ‘legalistic,’ restrictive and oppressive, in contrast to a spirit of love promoted by Christianity. But this is a misunderstanding. For the Jewish people, the giving of the Torah at Sinai—the gift of a ‘teaching,’ a spiritual and moral ‘road map’ from God’s very Self—expresses a relationship with a loving God to be joyfully embraced with gratitude and wonder. It is a sign of being called, gifted, entrusted with a divine undertaking.

Join us here as we explore the Jewish festival of Shavuot, and at the same time enliven our appreciation of the Christian celebration of Pentecost.