#18 Shavuot – Receiving of the Ten Commandments
#18 Shavuot – Receiving of the Ten Commandments
Shavuot has a double significance. It marks the all-important wheat harvest in the Land of Israel (Exodus 34:22); and it commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai, although the association between the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text.In the Bible, Shavuot is called three different names: Festival of Weeks (Hebrew: חג השבועות, Ḥag ha Shavuot, Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy16:10); Festival of Reaping (Hebrew: חג הקציר, Ḥag ha-Katsir, Exodus 23:16), and Day of the First Fruits (Hebrew יום הבכורים, Yom ha-Bikkurim, Numbers 28:26).Shavuot, the plural of a word meaning “week” or “seven”, alludes to the fact that this festival happens exactly seven weeks (i.e. “a week of weeks”) after Passover.
#1 WATCH: Spring Harvest in Israel
#2 STUDY: The Customs of Shavuot
As Shavuot is one of the Three Harvest Festivals, many Jewish families traditionally decorate their homes and synagogues with plants, flowers and leafy branches in honor of Shavuot. Some synagogues decorate the bimah with a canopy of flowers and plants so that it resembles a chuppah, as Shavuot is mystically referred to as the day the matchmaker (Moses) brought the bride (the nation of Israel) to the chuppah (Mount Sinai) to marry the bridegroom (God).
Feasting on milk based foods (cheesecake, blintzes, and kreplach) are common and rooted in the idea that The Torah is compared to milk by King Solomon, who wrote: “Like honey and milk, it lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). In addition, there is a custom to stay up all night and study Jewish texts (see Tikkun Leil Shavuot below).
#3 WATCH: The 10 Commandments in The Prince of Egypt
#4 STUDY: The Giving of the 10 Commandments
According to the Book of Exodus, Mount Sinai (Hebrew: הר סיני,Har Sinai) is the mountain at which the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God. In the Book of Deuteronomy, these events are described as having transpired at Mount Horeb. The name “Sinai” is only used in the Torah by the Jahwist and Priestly source, whereas Horeb is only used by the Elohist and Deuteronomist.“Sinai” and “Horeb” are generally considered to refer to the same place, although there is a small body of opinion that the two names may refer to different locations. In the Torah, it describes the giving of the Tablets:
And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tablets of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. Exodus 24:12–13
There are five positive (do) and five negative (don’t do) commandments:
First Commandment (Exodus 20:2): I am the Lord Your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Second Commandment (Exodus 20:3-6): You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself any graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them, for I, the Lord Your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7): You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.
Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11): Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord Your God, in it you shall not do any manner of work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day. Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy.
Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12): Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord God gives you.
Sixth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not murder.
Seventh Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not commit adultery.
Eighth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not steal.
Ninth Commandment (Exodus 20:13): You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:14):You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, nor his wife, his man-servant, his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
#5 Customs: Tikkun Leil Shavuot
The practice of staying up all Shavuot night to study Torah – known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Hebrew: תקון ליל שבועות) – has its source in the Midrash, which relates that the night before the Torah was given, the Israelites retired early to be well-rested for the momentous day ahead.
Any subject may be studied on Shavuot night, although Talmud, Mishnah, and Torah typically top the list. People may learn alone or with a study partner, or attend late-night lectures and study groups. Both men and women participate in this tradition. In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of people finish off the nighttime study session by walking to the Western Wall before dawn and joining the sunrise minyan there.
# 6 REVIEW AND RESPONSE
1. What are two other names given to Shavuot in English?
2. What are the two significant meanings of Shavuot?
3. What types of food do people eat on Shavuot?
4. Can you name 3 of the 10 Commandments?
5. Which is the most important commandment in your opinion?
6. What is the name of the all night study session on Shavuot?
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