Shavuot begins tonight, May 26, 2012, the sixth of the Jewish month of Sivan. (The Feast of Weeks) marks seven weeks after Passover. It is the anniversary of God’s gift of the Torah to the Jewish people.
Just as Mount Sinai, where God chose to give the Torah, was not the highest or most beautiful of the mountains in the world, Shavuot is not the most exalted of holidays. Sukkot and Passover, the other two pilgrimage festivals, last eight days each, but Shavuot is only a two-day affair. Instead of the large, meat-centered feasts of other Jewish holidays, Shavuot is celebrated with dairy foods, especially sweet ones. Blintzes and noodle puddings are special Shavuot favorites.
Shavuot is often celebrated by a Tikkun leil Shavuot, a study session which begins after the festival evening service and lasts, for those who can take it, all night, until the festival morning service. The study session may consist of prescribed passages from the books of the Hebrew Bible and medieval mystical texts, or it may be whatever a particular group decides to study. Legend has it that at midnight, if you cease your study and go out and look up at the evening sky, you will see the heavens open, and be able to see God and the angels, also studying the Torah.
So tonight, take out your bible, or some other book of Jewish study. Read a few passages, have a couple of blintzes with sour cream, or a piece of pie a la mode, and celebrate the giving of Torah. And if you make it to midnight, you can go out and look up at the starlit sky, and try to see into heaven.