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How is Shavuot celebrated?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » Holidays » Shavuot » About | Subscribe | What is RSS?


1. Study All Night

You've done that in college anyway, haven't you? We’ve all had times when we stayed up to the wee hours of the morning, cramming for that exam or playing our favorite sci-fi shoot-em-up on that old PC. Now, how about doing it for Torah? That's just the idea of this age-old custom, in which Jews show their love for Torah by studying it from dark to dawn the first night of the holiday.

The reason? The night before the Torah was given, our forefathers warmed their mattresses when they should have been sleepless with excitement over the next day's big event. To cosmically correct this, we stay up and study, preferably in large groups, and preferably at your local synagogue.

2. Package for You

Go to synagogue to pick it up. The physical Giving of the Torah was a one-time event (on this day in the year 2448 - 1312 BCE). But every year, the Torah is spiritually given anew. To all Jews. To receive the Torah for yourself, head to your nearest synagogue to hear the reading of the Sinai Revelation and the Ten Commandments. Don't forget to bring the kids -- they played, and play, a vital role in receiving the Torah (see A Childish Understanding of the Torah).

3. Everything Goes with Cheese

It is customary to eat dairy foods on the first day of Shavuot. See Why do we eat dairy foods on Shavuot Day?

4. Holiday Factors

In addition to the observances that are unique to Shavuot, Shavuot is also celebrated with those things common to every Biblical Holiday: candle lighting, festive meals (including Kiddush and Challah), fine dress, special prayer services, Torah readings, and no work.

See also What is Shavuot? and When is Shavuot?


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
A loaf of bread. Usually refers to: 1) The section of dough separated and given to the priest (today that section is burnt). 2) The sweetened, soft bread customarily consumed at the Sabbath meals.