Get up to 35% off with the ready, set speak sale! Ends soon!
Get up to 35% off with the ready, set speak sale! Ends soon!
HebrewPod101.com Blog
Learn Hebrew with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Shavuot: Celebrating the Feast of Weeks in Israel

With roughly three-quarters of its population claiming the Jewish religion, Israel is a country whose history and culture largely revolve around Judaism. With this in view, there may be no better place to celebrate the biggest Jewish holidays!

The Feast of Weeks, or שבועות (Shavuot) in Hebrew, is one of three extremely important Jewish holidays. In this article, you’ll learn about this holiday’s origins, how Jews celebrate it today, and more interesting facts.

Let’s get started.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew

1. What is the Feast of Weeks?

The Feast of Weeks, also known as Shavuot, is a major Jewish holiday that holds special status as a עליה לרגל (aliya la-regel), or “pilgrimage,” day. There are only two other Jewish holidays that are considered pilgrimage days: Passover and Sukkot.

The Shavuot holiday is thought to be the day on which the Torah was given to Israel (though this is in dispute), and it also marks the end of the wheat harvesting season. In particular, this is when the Counting of the Omer—a period of time lasting שבעה שבועות (shiva shavuot), or “seven weeks,” from the second day of Passover—comes to an end.

There are several mentions of the Feast of Weeks in the Bible’s Old Testament, and it goes by several different names, including Festival of Reaping and Day of the First Fruits. Now, you may be wondering if there’s any connection between the Feast of Weeks and Pentecost—there is! Pentecost was the name that Hellenistic Jews gave this holiday.

2. When is the Feast of Weeks This Year?

A Calendar Showing Many Days

According to the Jewish calendar, the Feast of Weeks is celebrated on the sixth day of Sivan, and ends on the seventh day. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years on the Gregorian calendar.

Start Date
(Sunset)
End Date
(Nightfall)
2020 May 28 May 30
2021 May 17 May 19
2022 June 5 June 7
2023 May 26 May 28
2024 June 12 June 14
2025 June 1 June 3
2026 May 21 May 23
2027 June 10 June 12
2028 May 30 June 1
2029 May 19 May 21

3. How is Shavuot Celebrated?

A Variety of Dairy Products

As mentioned earlier, the Jewish holiday Shavuot is also referred to as the Day of the First Fruits. This is because, during the time of the Holy Temple, Shavuot was a day for Jews to bring the first fruits of the harvest (called bikkurim) as a sacrifice. Beginning in the twentieth century, many Jewish farming communities started the tradition of having a bikkurim-bringing ceremony, complete with singing, dancing, and a parade. Even young children participate in bikkurim-bringing ceremonies in school, where they wear לבן (lavan), or “white,” and arrive at school with a basket of fruit.

Other common traditions include a liturgical poem-reading in the morning, a reading of the Book of Ruth, and a session of studying the Torah all night long. Secular Jews have their own version of this Shavuot tradition, in which they gather together to study or discuss current events or philosophical/social issues.

Some people refer to Shavuot as the “holiday of water.” This is because another common tradition is to squirt people with מָיִם (mayim), or “water,” which is thought to prevent those squirted from being harmed for the duration of the year.

Finally, many Jews like to eat dairy products, called מוצרי חלב (muts’rei khalav), during the Feast of Weeks. Some favorite foods include cheeses, cakes, and casseroles!

4. Why Do We Eat Dairy on Shavuot?

So, why dairy?

This tradition is thought to have stemmed from the fact that the Jewish dietary laws (called Kashrut) were given to Jews along with the Torah. Because this took place on the Sabbath, the Jews were unable to comply with the dietary laws on that day. As a result, they ate only dairy products during Shavuot.

Today, Israelis love to go out on picnics to enjoy a variety of dairy dishes!

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for Shavuot

The Torah Scroll and Harvested Foods

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here’s a list of the most important words and phrases for the Feast of Weeks!

Hebrew Romanization English Part of Speech
+
Gender
לבן lavan “white” Adj. [m.]
מָיִם mayim “water” N. [m.]
מוצרי חלב muts’rei khalav “dairy products” N. [m.]
שבועות Shavuot “Shavuot” N. [m.]
עליה לרגל aliya la-regel “pilgrimage” N. [f.]
בועז Boaz “Boaz” N. [m.]
עומר Omer “omer unit” N. [m.]
הושענות Hoshanot “hosanna” N. [f.]
קציר katsir “harvest” N. [m.]
ארבעים ותשעה ימים arba’im va-tesha yamim “forty-nine days” N. [m.]
שבעה שבועות shiva shavuot “seven weeks” N. [m.]
רות Rut “Ruth” N. [f.]
תיקון ליל שבועות Tikun Leil Shavuot “Rectification for Shavuot Night”
גיור Giyor “conversion” N. [m.]

To hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to visit our Feast of Weeks vocabulary list!

Final Thoughts

We’re sure you can see now why the Feast of Weeks is such a staple observation for Jews, religious and secular alike. Did you learn anything new today about Israeli culture? Let us know in the comments!

If you want to continue learning, HebrewPod101.com has several articles about Israeli culture and the Hebrew language for you:

This only scratches the surface of everything HebrewPod101.com can offer the aspiring Hebrew-learner. To make the most of your study time, create your free lifetime account with us today; or better, upgrade to our Premium or Premium PLUS plans for more exclusive content and lessons.

Whatever path you want your language-learning journey to follow, know that we’re here for you from step one to the end!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew