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The Holiday of Shavuot

(May 25th-27th)


Torah Portion: Shavuot

Shabbat: Fri. May 26th -day Sivan 6, 5783


The Shema

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”. Deut. 6:4-5


In addition, the month of Sivan begins Saturday, May 20th at sundown, which heralds the conclusion of the 49 day countdown from the day following Passover (see Lev. 23:15-16). The first five days of the month of Sivan anticipate the day the Torah was given to Israel at Sinai, namely, the sixth of Sivan, which marks exactly seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt. So I hope to share some things related to both the Torah portion for this week, the significance of Jerusalem to us as followers of Yeshua, as well as the holiday of Shavuot (i.e., "Pentecost"), which begins in one week (i.e., Thursday, May 25th after sundown). May the LORD show us grace as we study his Torah and to review the significance of the Torah written upon our hearts in the Messiah (Jer. 31:31, Heb. 10:16, Jer. 32:40). Amen. According to the sages, the festival of Shavuot marks the culmination of the experience of redemption, sometimes called Atzeret Pesach (עצרת פסח), or the "conclusion" of Passover. Since the Exodus from Egypt was intended to lead to the revelation given at Sinai, the goal of Passover was the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.

In other words, the LORD took the Jewish people out of Egypt so that they would be His own treasured people, holy and separated from the pagan cultures around them, living in the light of great revelation. Indeed, all of the holidays of the biblical calendar are connected with this event, including the fall festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. During the holiday of Shavuot, it is customary for young adults to recommit themselves to Talmud Torah (the study of Torah) and to renew their decision to live as faithful Jews. In addition to formal "confirmation ceremonies" often scheduled at synagogues, some other Shavuot customs include decorating the home and synagogue with greenery, eating dairy foods and sweets (as samples of the "milk and honey" of the promised land), and staying up the entire night of Shavuot to read selections from the Torah and from the Talmud (this custom is called tikkun leil ha'shavuot: תיקון ליל השבועות, "Rectification for Shavuot Night"). For the Messianic Jew, Shavuot is the time of celebrating the birth of kallat ha'Mashiach (כלת המשיח) - the Bride of the Messiah (or the new covenant assembly), since the fire of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) was poured out to the believers in Yeshua during this time.

At the synagogue, it is customary to start the Shavuot evening service later than usual, to ensure that the 50th day has arrived (see "counting the omer"). As mentioned above, many people stay at the synagogue throughout the entire night listening to poems and favorite portions of Scripture, or reading from a special book (sefer tikkun leil ha'Shavuot) that includes key verses of each Torah portion and passages of each tractate of the Mishnah. This custom is observed to "repair" the night of Shavuot from the error of sleeping so soundly before the Torah was revealed at Sinai that God had to awaken the Jews with piercing shofar blasts, thunder, and lightning the following morning (Exod. 19:16).

Jewish tradition teaches be'chol dor vador (בכל דור ודור) - that in every generation each person should consider him or herself as having personally been delivered from Egypt to receive the Torah at Sinai. The climax of the Shavuot morning service is the recitation of the famous Akdamut poem followed by the reading of the Ten Commandments, when all the congregation stands to "relive" the experience at Sinai. A second Torah scroll is then taken out of the ark and the portion is read (Num. 28:26-31) that describes the sacrificial offerings made at the Temple during Shavuot, and the Haftarah (Ezek. 1:1-28; 3:12) concerns the amazing revelation of God in the form of the Throne/Chariot.

The Scroll of Ruth (מגילת רות) - a beautiful story about God's redemptive love - is traditionally read on the second day of Shavuot. As the Goel (kinsman-redeemer), Boaz was a wealthy man of the tribe of Judah (Bethlehem) who married a Gentile bride. Boaz's name means "in Him is strength," a picture of the Yeshua the Messiah, his greater Descendant, who also redeemed for himself a bride from among the nations. Among traditional Jews, the Book of Ruth is is read since the events recounted took place during the time of the spring harvest (linking it to the agricultural aspect of Shavuot), and Ruth is a picture of willing acceptance of a Jewish lifestyle (linking it to the events of Sinai).

The holiday of Shavuot is one of the shelosh regalim (שלוש רגלים) or three major "pilgrimage festivals" commanded in the Torah (see Exod. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16) and therefore it reveals profound spiritual truth for followers of Yeshua (Luke 24:44; 2 Tim. 3:16). God did not want us to miss the significance of this holiday, since it expresses the blessed truth of the New Covenant of Zion. From my family to you: Chag Shavuot Sameach (חג שבועות שמח) - "Happy Shavuot!" May this be a time of renewal and great joy in your lives...

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