The Jewish festival of Shavuot / שָׁבוּעוֹת, meaning “weeks” (which the Christians call “Pentecost”), is one of the three biblical Harvest Pilgrimage festivals of ancient Israel. It marks the conclusion of the 49 days’ count-down of the “Omer,” or barley-sheaves, which began the second night of Pesach פֶּסַח (Passover).
This year, it begins on Thursday evening, with candle-lighting at 8:10 pm in Guthrie, Oklahoma; and continues through Saturday evening at 9:30 pm. That means that this year, the second day, celebrated only in the Diaspora—the communities outside of Israel— coincides with the Jewish Sabbath.
Shavuot / שָׁבוּעוֹת celebrates the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai, and the eternal Covenant made with the Jewish people. It is also called “Yom HaBikkurim,” the Day of the First Fruits. When the Temple was standing in Jerusalem, the farmers brought their fields’ first produce (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates).
One custom, from the mystics of Tz’fat (Safed), Israel, is a custom to stay up all night and study, as a group, a “Reader’s Digest” of the core texts of Judaism, called Tikkun Leil Shavuoth. The traditional text from this includes selections from Torah and also from the Prophets, the Writings including the entire Book of Ruth, beginning and ending sections of Mishnah (the core text of the Talmud in which the “Oral Torah” that traditional people believe was given at the same time as the written one, is debated-through and written-down over a period of centuries); and very short selections from later mystical works.
This year, to ensure everyone’s safety, the Orthodox Union and other Jewish umbrella-organizations have ruled that we still are not opening the houses of worship for face-to-face events. However, people are to still celebrate at home, and this year texts are more available for doing so.
The overriding principle here is that saving and preserving of life is paramount, so this will continue until it is safe for people to gather in numbers that large, again, without endangering themselves or others. Meanwhile, thank you for continuing to please take care of yourselves, and of your neighbors, by following the CDC’s guidelines. We do appreciate it.
You can reach us at Jewish Center of Indian Country, (405) 466-5234, RabbiKarpov@gmail.com. One of the very first woman rabbis to hold a solo United Synagogue pulpit, Rabbi Karpov’s practice continues to be Modern Orthodox/ Open Orthodox, as always.