Shavu’ot is one of the most significant holidays on the Jewish calendar. The word shavu’ot translates in Hebrew to “weeks,” lending credence to one of its more recognizable names, the “Festival of Weeks.” In the Greek, the word translates to Pentecost, which is the name familiar to most Christians. Shavu’ot is celebrated 50 days—or seven weeks—after the second day of Passover, typically in May or June.

While this two-day celebration was traditionally an agricultural festival, requiring Jewish people to make an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to present the first fruits of their harvest, known as bikkurim, Shavu’ot also commemorates the giving of the Torah (the Law) on Mount Sinai after the people of Israel fled persecution in Egypt.

With the richness of the dual significance, Shavu’ot ultimately invites Jews to remember where they came from, where they are now, and their covenant with God, who brought them there. It is a celebration of one people and one nation who serve one God.

A trip to Israel during Shavu’ot is a highly celebratory affair, with parties and fun events for all ages to enjoy. During the holiday, Israelis traditionally wear white clothing, and children wear wreaths of flowers in their hair. Fresh fruit is for sale in abundance.

And then there is the cheese. Eating a dairy-based meal at Shavu’ot is an enduring tradition that has its roots in Exodus 3:18, which refers to Israel as a land “flowing with milk and honey.” Prohibited from eating meat, the people of Israel were introduced to dairy-based foods for the first time as part of their ritual diet. One thing is for sure—if you’re celebrating Shavu’ot in Israel, you’ll be very likely to find a cheesecake, quiches, and more than a few blintzes on every table.

Another Shavu’ot custom is to stay up all night until sunrise, devoted to Torah study. Some include special readings from the Book of Ruth, along with recitation of the Hallel (Psalms of Praise) and observance of Yizkor, the memorial service.

No matter where you celebrate it, Shavu’ot is a sacred, yet joyous holiday of the covenant bond that makes us one with God and one with each other.

You’ve just read about how others celebrate Shavu’ot in Israel, why not start planning your experience right now?

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