Some say Shavuot is the most important Jewish festival, especially among Reconstructionist Jews. The holiday takes place seven weeks from the second day of Passover—or May 16-18, 2021. If you’ll be celebrating for the first time this year, learn more about this sacred Jewish holiday and what traditional activities and recipes go with it.
What is Shavuot?
Shavuot celebrates the harvest season and the giving of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. It is synonymous with Judaism itself and has been treated as such for centuries.
Shavuot was originally an agricultural festival celebrating the “first fruits” of the wheat harvest in Eretz Yisrael, which continues all summer and ends with Sukkot in the fall. The festival developed into something more as Israelite farmers came to thank God—not only for the harvest but also for the laws and traditions of the harvest.
For instance, Israelite law requires observers to treat the Sabbath as a day of rest for humans and animals alike, even during the busy planting and harvesting seasons. Eventually, the book where the laws of the harvest were recorded (the Torah) came to be regarded as divine. Likewise, the harvest feast became a celebration of the Ten Commandments and the revelations in the Torah.
In this day and age, no specific mitzvot (commandments) are associated with Shavuot because Jews living worldwide can no longer bring agricultural offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Still, several customs and rituals remain, including:
• Tikkun Leil Shavuot (staying up late or even all night studying the Torah)
• Reading the Book of Ruth from the Bible (known as Writings) during religious services
• Decorating the home with greens and fresh flowers
Recipes for Shavuot
Jewish families gather together to enjoy a meal featuring traditional Shavuot dishes. Kosher dairy products are common because these foods remind observers of the Torah’s sweetness and recognize that Israel is the land “flowing with milk and honey.” Here are some traditional recipes you may want to try this Shavuot:
• Crustless Cheese and Vegetable Quiche: This light, cheesy dish combines a frittata and a quiche into one. It’s perfect for family breakfast or lunch on Shavuot.
• Kosher Cheesecakes: Rich and creamy, sweet with a touch of sour—whatever flavor you’re craving, you can find a kosher cheesecake to fit the bill.
• Blintz Soufflé: It’s no surprise that baking cheese-filled crepes into a sweet egg and sour cream-based custard makes for a crowd-pleasing casserole.
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