TRADITIONS OF SHAVU'OT
By Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr
Though Shavu’ot it seems is all but passed over (no pun intended) being overshadowed by the preceding High Holy Day of Passover, Shavu’ot is a rich Holy Day that should not be missed.
Shavuot celebrates the Giving of the Torah and for Natsari believers, the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as well. The Torah was engraved and given in stone at Sinai and it was engraved in our hearts in Acts 2.
During the 50 day interim between Passover and Shavuot we count the Omer and also take this time for self evaluation and personal tikkun (repair).
“The teachings of Kabbalah explain that there are seven "Divine
Attributes" -- Sefirot -- that G-d assumes through which to relate to our existence: Chessed, Gevurah, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut ("Love", "Strength", "Beauty", "Victory", "Splendor", "Foundation" and "Sovereignty"). In the human being, created in the "image of G-d," the seven sefirot are mirrored in the seven "emotional attributes" of the human soul: Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness. Each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven--i.e., "Kindness in Kindness", "Restraint in Kindness", "Harmony in Kindness", etc.--making for a total of forty-nine traits. The 49-day Omer Count is thus a 49-step process of self refinement, with each day devoted to the "rectification" and perfection of one the forty-nine "sefirot."” – Chabad.org
3 days prior to Shavuot we purify ourselves further as the Children of Israel did and we abstain from marital relations and such until after Shavu’ot.
The night before an all night Torah study is common in preparation for the wedding as a Bride waiting for their Groom.
Matthew 25:1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
During Shavuot we go to the synagogue as if we were going to Mt. Sinai to hear the 10 Commandments read just as it was at the Mount before Moshe went up to receive the Torah in its entirety. It is said that before G-d gave the Torah he demanded guarantors and G-d rejected all of Israel’s suggestions of one until Israel declared that their children would be the guarantors and immediately G-d agreed and this is why we make sure to bring our children. Also in Acts 2, the Ruach HaKodesh is a sort of a guarantor. You see, Shavuot is like a wedding, Mt. Sinai the Wedding canopy and Moshe the Rabbi performing the wedding via G-d’s instructions, and the Torah is like the wedding vows. The Ruach Ha Kodesh is like the wedding ring so to speak. So on Shavu’ot we all “renew our wedding vows”. Jewish copuples also renew their vows at this time to by the reading of the Ketuvah (Jewish Wedding Contract).
It says that a mixed multitude (Gentiles/Non-Jews) was present during the giving and receiving of the Torah and that they accepted too and thus Ruth is read for the story occurred during Shavuot and she is one of the most famous converts in history and is in the linage of King David and King Messiah! And so it is also customary in some communities for converts to get circumcised or have their Hatafat Dam Brit (Drawing of one drop of blood from the penis of an already circumcised gentile) and mikvah and thus officially convert to Judaism.
Since it is a harvest festival homes and synagogues are decorated with a spring/harvest theme.
Finally The Torah is like our spiritual food and thus when we received Torah at Sinai at the first it was like milk and as we mature it becomes like meat, so there are two festive meals at Shavu’ot, one of milk and one much later of meat, because Orthodox Jews do not consume dairy and meat products together.
When the Torah was given Jews now became obligated to kosherly slaughter and prepare their meat, and as the Torah was given on the Sabbath no work, thus no slaughtering could take place so dairy products were consumed. The Hebrew word for milk is “Chalav” and numerically it comes out to 40 and Moshe spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai when receiving the Torah.