19th-century Italian calendar for counting the Omer.

Is Shavuot the Jewish Pentecost?

Shavuot goes by many names, but Pentecost is not usually one of them.

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is often confused with a Christian holiday that happens around the same time of year. But Shavuot is not the Jewish Pentecost.

Shavuot, which comes from the Hebrew meaning “weeks,” celebrates the early barley harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Other Jewish names for Shavuot include “Feast of the Harvest” and “Atzeret.”

“Pentecost,” which comes from the Greek meaning “fifty,” commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the birth of the early church.

Both Shavuot and Pentecost are celebrated after a count of seven weeks—which is why one means “weeks” and the other means “fifty” (7×7=49). Shavuot is celebrated seven weeks after Passover, and Pentecost is celebrated seven weeks after Easter. This is not a coincidence. The Greek term “Pentecost” is used by some authors of the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) and by the author of Acts to refer to the Jewish celebration of Shavuot. Just as Easter (in Greek “pascha”) is a holiday derived of an adaptation of the Jewish Passover, so too Pentecost is a holiday that is derived from an adaptation of Shavuot. But for more than a thousand years, they have been very different holidays for their respective communities, with different meanings and rituals.

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Shavuot 101

Shavuot commemorates the spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

What Happens on Shavuot?

Rituals for the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah.

Why is Shavuot Significant?

It's probably a bigger deal than you think.