by Arlene Berg

SHAVUOT, SHAVUOS — pronounce with a short “a,”  a long “u,”  and a long “o.”  The accent is on the “vu.”   There are two spellings for this word since the last letter in this word, in Hebrew, can be pronounced as either an “s'” or “t.”


From sundown Tuesday, May 30, to sundown Thursday, June 1 in 2017 (in Israel it is celebrated for only one day), Jewish people will observe Shavuos, or the Feast of Weeks (Devarim, or Deuteronomy 16:9,10), taken from Vayyiqra, or Leviticus 23:15-22.  In the Jewish calendar, this is Sivan 6 & 7.  In Vayyiqra 23:15-22, God told his people to number seven Shabbats, or Sabbaths, or seven  weeks (49 days), beginning on the day after the Passover Shabbat when the Feast of First Fruits was observed (vs. 10-16).  After this numbering, on the 50th day, they were to bring an offering of grain to the Temple from the new harvest.  This 50th day is Shavuos.  The first fruits offered on this day included two wave loaves baked with leaven.

On Shavuot the Ten Commandments are publicly read in the morning service.  Before this is done, though, an old, beautiful, 90-verse poem is sung.  This poem is called “Akdamus” (Hebrew for “Introduction”).  Because of its content and beauty, Akdamus is meant to reawaken every Jewish person to the study of the Torah, or Law.   Thus, Akdamus is a fitting introduction to the reading of the Ten Commandments.

The following third stanza of the beautiful hymn, “The Love of God,” is adapted from the Akdamus!  “Could we with ink the ocean fill, Were every blade of grass a quill, Were the whole world of parchment made, And every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky.”

Why do Jewish people place such an emphasis on the Ten Commandments and the Law on Shavuot?  Judaism states that God gave the Law, or Torah, to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot.  Thus, Shavuot is the birthday of Judaism.  Because of this, Shavuos is also called “The Season of the Giving of the Law.”   On this holiday, Jewish people will eat dairy dishes, such as cheesecake, and foods sweetened with honey.  The Torah is as nourishing as milk and as sweet as honey to those who love it and study it.  How true!   Religious Jewish people will spend the entire first night of Shavuos in the study of the Torah.  Would we do this?!

How tragic that the Law is a sealed book to the Jewish people! (Yesha’yahu, or Isaiah 29:9-14).  In John 5:39 Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah, said, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.”

Shavuos is considered as a day of Israel’s dedication to the Lord because of the first fruits that were offered to God in the Temple.  Because of this, Jewish people who are not Orthodox (religious) have Confirmation ceremonies in their temples on Shavuos.  After the Jewish people had been dispersed into the nations, Shavuos lost its primary character as a harvest festival and became known as the “Feast of the Giving of the Law.”  Shavuos is celebrated today in Jewish homes and in synagogues as a thanksgiving festival.  It is customary to decorate the synagogues with green branches and flowers.

GOD’S UNIVERSAL CHURCH IS BORN!  In Acts 2 a very significant event occurred!  Multitudes of Jewish people “out of every nation under heaven” were gathered in Jerusalem for Shavuot, or Pentecost.  “Pentecost” is Greek for “fifty” or “fifty days.”  On this day the Ruach HaKodesh, or Holy Spirit, descended as a “rushing mighty wind” and as “cloven tongues as of fire” and filled the disciples of Messiah Jesus.   3,000 people were saved that day – the Church was born!  Just as Shavuot is the birthday of Judaism, Shavuot (Pentecost) is also the birthday of God’s universal Church!  An interesting fact – under Grace 3,000 people were saved on Pentecost (Acts 2:41);  under the Law, 3,000 people perished (Shemot, or Exodus 32:28)!  Some Christians celebrate Pentecost Sunday.  This year it is June 12.

On Shavuos God’s people were instructed to offer two waves loaves baked with leaven, a picture of sin.  What a wonderful truth!   In the Church, God has brought two groups (two wave loaves) of people together to worship Him, both Jewish and Gentile ( I Corinthians 12:13), neither of whom are without sin.

On Shavuos the book of Ruth is read in the synagogue.  This is done because Judaism says that Dovid HaMelek, or King David, was born and died on Shavuos.   Since he is descended from Ruth, the reading of this book is appropriate for this holiday.  The reading of the book of Ruth is also done since the circumstances it relates took place at the time of the harvest and Shavuos.  What a wonderful truth!  Ruth, the Gentile woman from Moab, came to be not only a child of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but an ancestress of King David and his greater Son, Jesus the Messiah!  (Matthew 1:1-16).  Again, this is a picture of the time when Jewish people and Gentiles will worship God together through the Messiah, the Kinsman Redeemer.  This is typified by Boaz, the kinsman redeemer and the husband of Ruth, his Gentile bride.

In the Feast of First Fruits, the day on which the Jewish people began to number the seven weeks, or 49 days, God commanded that their offerings contain no leaven (Vayyiqra  23:14).   The Feast of First Fruits occurred on the day after the Passover Sabbath.  Yeshua HaMashiach, in Whom was no leaven, arose from the dead on the day after the Passover Sabbath!  He, indeed, is the “First Fruits of them that slept.”   (I Corinthians 15:20-23).   In Acts 1:4-9, after He had risen from the dead, Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come “not many days from now.”   On Shavuot, or Pentecost, 50 days after His resurrection, the Ruach HaKodesh came in mighty power, and the Church was born, the two wave loaves with leaven, the first fruits purchased by Yeshua HaMashiach! (James 1:18).

“Then said I, Lo, I come;  in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God;  yea, thy Law (“Torah”) is within my heart.”  (Tehillim, or Psalm 40:7,8).   How we long for the Jewish people to see Yeshuah HaMashiach within their Torah!   Won’t you pray for the Jewish people, especially on Shavuos, that they will see Messiah Jesus in the Law, come to Him in faith, and become part of His Church, the first fruits bought by His blood.

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