This weekend we celebrate Shavuot, which is one of the three pilgrimage Festivals (Pesach/Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot), so I thought we should have a lesson about this Holy Day.
Shavuot is closely associated with Pesach because we are commanded to Count the Omer starting with the first Shabbat after Pesach, that counting (50 days) ends at Shavuot.
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Shavuot is known by a few different names. It is called The Feast of Weeks (Chag Shavuot), the festival of First Fruits (Chag Habikurim), and the Harvest festival (Chag Hakatzir).
It is even referred to as Atzeret, which means “assembly” and refers to the fact that this is a day when we assemble at the temple in Jerusalem.
(Avengers…Atzeret! Nah, that won’t work.)
Many feel Shavuot is the conclusion of the Passover celebration, which consists of Pesach (evening to midnight of the 14th of Nisan), Chag HaMatzot (Festival of Unleavened Bread, which lasts 7 days), and then Shavuot which occurs 50 days later, when we finish the Counting of the Omer.
The day Jews celebrate Shavuot is also called Pentecost (Greek for “50 days”), which is considered a Christian holiday.
The New Covenant tells us in Acts 2 about how at the Pentecost celebration (unless you are reading a Jewish version of the B’rit Chadasha, in which it will correctly call it during the Festival of Shavuot) the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, occurred.
One of the things the Jewish leaders have done over the years is to change the meaning of a Holy Day. For instance, Rosh Hashanah is considered today to be the Jewish New Year, but in the Torah God calls it a Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets), and it is not at all associated with a new year. In fact, in Exodus 12 God tells us that our year begins on the first day of Aviv (now called Nisan).
The rabbis have changed Shavuot, as well, redesignating it from its Torah definition as a harvest festival (an Omer is a measure of wheat) to associating it with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
They came up with this idea by calculating that after the first Pesach, by the time the Omer counting was over, the Israelites were at the base of Horeb (Sinai), and that is when God gave us the Torah (give or take a month while Moses was on the mountain).
I have done the calculations myself, and it can work either way, with some saying they came to the mountain 90 days later, and others being able to show it was about 50 days.
This significant difference, being calculated from the same source (the Torah) reminds me of something I learned when I worked on Wall Street: figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.
In any event, I have come to accept that there is a good lesson for Messianic Jews in seeing both Pentecost and Shavuot as a “giving” event: for one, God gave us the Torah, which Shaul (Paul) says defined sin so that we could know-absolutely- the difference between what pleases God and what doesn’t. And, on this same day, God gave us the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) to be the fulfillment of the New Covenant God made with us in Jeremiah 31:31, which is to write his Torah on our hearts (by means of the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit).
You see, when we read in the Tanakh about the giving of the spirit, God would place his spirit on people, but then that spirit was taken back. The Holy Spirit was a temporary gift that God gave, sparingly, and once the purpose for giving it was accomplished, the spirit was removed.
Not so after Yeshua’s resurrection. Those who accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised to send, and who faithfully obey the instructions God gave in the Torah (not what Paul or James or a Pope or a Minister or any human being tells you what to do), we can receive the Holy Spirit and it will not just fall on us to be taken back later, but will remain.
The Torah is a written set of instructions that tells us how God wants us to worship him and treat each other, which has many deep, spiritual lessons for us that one cannot fathom without having spiritual insight. The Ruach HaKodesh, which we receive from God when we ask for it (after having accepting Yeshua as his Messiah) provides that spiritual insight, which allows us to understand God’s word at a level people without the Ruach will never have.
So when we look at these two events: the giving of the written law and the giving of the means to understand the spiritual meaning of that written law, we can see how Shavuot and Pentecost are really two sides of the same coin.
I feel that even though the rabbis changed what God said Shavuot is to be, and Christian leaders have removed the “Jewishness” of what happened at Pentecost, when we look at this from a Messianic Jewish perspective, it all works to the good.
There are many other Jewish traditions associated with Shavuot, such as the reading of the Book of Ruth, staying up the entire night before Shavuot studying the Talmud, Torah, and even the Zohar (this tradition was introduced by the Kabbalists), and there are some other things, none of which I will go into today.
If you are interested in these traditions, as well as many other items of interest regarding Jewish tradition and Jews, in general, I suggest you get both volumes of “The Jewish Book of Why”.
Shavuot 2022 will begin on the evening of June 4th; it is a very joyous day and so you should drink, eat, and be merry.
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That’s it for this week, so I wish you both Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!