Tonight we celebrate the first night of Shavuot. Literally translated, it means “weeks“. However, most of our protestant kin refer to this holiday as Pentecost. Both names for the holy day come from the counting of time from the last holy day celebrated, which was Passover. Shavuot occurs 50 days or several weeks after Passover. Pentecost translated in Greek means “the holiday of 50 days.”
For the Jew
The purpose of Shavuot is to celebrate the giving of the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. This event was celebrated in Deuteronomy 4:
God spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told you of His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments and He inscribed them on two stones.
Traditionally, it is custom to stay up the entire night learning Torah and say morning prayers the following day. It is also treated similar to the Sabbath, where in no work is permitted. The only exception is that you can prepare food.
In Exodus 23, a prohibition of the mixing of milk and meat is laid out. Some Jews also celebrate Shavuot by fixing two meals: one of milk and one of meat. Dairy meals might be comprised of cheesecake or puddings (definitely something I could get behind). Through out the Old Testament, there are references to the Torah (word of God) as nourishing milk.
For the Christian
As a protestant, there is an important lesson to learn from our Jewish heritage in the Holy Day of Shavuot. They are celebrating God caring enough to give us His word. Furthermore, for the Christian, it is significant because it was during Pentecost that the Holy Spirit descended:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
We have every reason as the Jews to celebrate Shavuot! Not only has God given us his Word, but He has also sent the Holy Spirit to help us.
For my family, we will sit down this evening and talk about the significance of God caring enough about us to share His Word with us. Definitely will find some cheese cake as well.