Much of the observance of the holiday centers on the synagogue and its rituals. The special readings for the holiday include medieval poems (piyyutim) and the Book of Ruth. A number of reasons are given for the inclusion of the latter. Among them are that the book takes place at the time of the barley harvest, that Ruth’s assumption of Naomi’s religion reflects the Israelites’ acceptance of the Torah at Sinai, and that King David, who is alleged to have died at this time of year according to rabbinic tradition, is mentioned at the end of Ruth. Another tradition is to participate in a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all-night study session marking the holiday. And finally, Shavuot is one of the holidays on which both Hallel, the Psalms of Praise, is recited and Yizkor, the memorial service, is observed.
By associating an ancient holiday of the grain harvest with the exodus from Egypt, Jewish tradition has imbued Shavuot with religious significance derived from the foundational event in Jewish historical consciousness. In the specific case of Shavuot, this takes the form of the entering into a covenant or formal agreement between God and Israel at Mount Sinai. This is a joyous time, since it is the moment at which God and Israel entered into a figurative marriage with each other, the hopeful springtime of their relationship.
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