We began the holiday of Shavuot last night (5/30/17), which is also called Pentecost (50 days) and is celebrated by both Jews and Christians. I think this is the only holiday that Jews and Christians celebrate together, although for different reasons.
You know…even within Judaism Shavuot is celebrated for a different reason than it was originally created. In Leviticus 23:15-21 God decreed we celebrate this day:
“‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord. Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the Lord, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering[c] and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”
We have been counting the Omer ( a unit of weight) until the 50th day after the first Shabbat after Passover. In other words, we have the Passover Seder, then the Festival of Firstfruits (Habikurim), and then we start to count the 50 days until Shavuot (which is the Hebrew word for “weeks”) when we perform both a sin and a fellowship sacrifice.
The Holy Day (meaning God decreed) of Shavuot was an agricultural celebration, but this has been replaced by a spiritual celebration. The Rabbinical holiday (meaning man-made) celebrates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Torah, itself, doesn’t mention this as part of the festival; neither is it mentioned as the reason for this festival in the writings of either of the accepted historians of this time period, Josephus and Philo. From what I could find, it is believed that Maimonides (also called the RaMBaM, an acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon), who lived in the twelfth century, is the Rabbi that associated Shavuot with the giving of the Law. This means that the Holy Day of Shavuot was celebrated as God told us to do so for about 2600 years after Moses, then it became a holiday created by Maimonides. In fact, the Torah could not have been given on Shavuot. Here’s why: we read in Exodus 19:1 the following statement:
In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
They left Egypt on the 15th of Aviv, and we are told in Exodus that this day (the very day they left Egypt) is to be the first day of their year. It took 90 days for them to get to Sinai, which is already more than 50 days after Habikurim. Even if we try to fit the time line in by using some convoluted counting based on which Shabbat is really the first Shabbat after Passover, we still have to add that God decreed all the men should prepare themselves for 3 days before approaching the mountain (Exodus 19:10):
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
So, it was no less than 93 days after the Israelites left Egypt that they even came to the mountain. Then, we have Moses up there for 40 days and nights, so the law was being given to Moses, but hadn’t been received by all of Israel yet. As you probably already know, the law took even longer than that, since Moses destroyed those first tablets and it was about 1 1/2 to 2 months later that he came down with the tablets that (finally) were saved in the Ark of the Covenant.
Likewise, even though the Christian celebration of Pentecost is to commemorate the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), Pentecost is a Greek word meaning “50 Days”, so the Christian celebration of Pentecost is celebrating a holiday whose name represents a totally different event. Yeshua (Jesus) never mentioned that He would send the Comforter on any specific day, just that they were to wait until it arrived. I contend that because Yeshua made no direct reference to receiving the Spirit on Pentecost, that Pentecost is a uniquely Jewish Holy Day and Christianity should have given their celebration a different name. I am guessing that because the early Believers were still mostly Jewish, and this spiritual indwelling occurred on a Jewish Holy Day (at that time Shavuot was celebrated as God said it should be), that is how the name Pentecost was forever associated with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
So what we have is this: Shavuot (weeks) and Pentecost (50 days- this name came from the Septuagint) are the same Holy Day, which has been turned into a holiday by both Jews and Christians, who each celebrate it for a different reason than what God created it to be.
If you have read my book (Back to Basics: God’s Word vs. Religion) you would know that I do not appreciate Holy Days being turned into holidays. However, I do make an exception for Shavuot because the relationship between the giving of the Torah, which set us apart as holy and represented freedom from slavery to men, and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), which set us apart as holy and helped to free us from slavery to sin, is a really good thing. It helps to bring together Jews and Christians, even if not for the same reason. It is (at least) some form of common celebration from which we can come closer together in our worship of God.
What we have today is this: The Holy Day God decreed is still being celebrated by both Jews and Christians. From the Jewish side, we have changed the reason for the celebration to one that (by all means) does deserve celebration: the giving of the Torah to Moses. On the Christian side, they celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit, which is the Comforter and giver of Truth to help us stay on the road of righteousness.
Torah tells us what God expects of us and defines sin so that we can avoid it; the Ruach HaKodesh helps us to recognize sin, and when we surrender to it, will also direct us to stay on the path of righteousness. Both Jews and Christians have this in common with their celebration of this day: we are thankful to God for His direction and for the gifts He gives us in order to help us have eternal life.
Shavuot is a very joyous celebration, and whether you celebrate the gift of the Torah, or the gift of the Ruach, or (as Messianic and Hebraic Roots congregations do) celebrate them both, have a very happy and blessed Shavuot.