Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pulling an all-nighter on Shavuot...

Thursday night marks the beginning of Shavuot and the 50th and final day of the omer.

It's been a custom for centuries to learn and study the Torah all night long.
On the first night of Shavuot (this year Thursday night, May 28, 2009), Jews throughout the world observe the centuries-old custom of conducting an all-night vigil dedicated to Torah learning, and preparation for receiving the Torah anew the next morning. One explanation for this tradition is that the Jewish people did not rise early on the day G‑d gave the Torah, and it was necessary for G‑d Himself to awaken them. To compensate for their behavior, Jews have accepted upon themselves the custom of remaining awake all night.
All Jews should attend Shacharis services on Friday to hear the reciting of the Ten Commandments. It's Yom Tov after all so you shouldn't be at work that day. For Jews, it's a short week with Memorial Day Weekend the weekend before
The holiday of Shavuot is the day on which we celebrate the great revelation of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, 3320 years ago. You stood at the foot of the mountain. Your grandparents and great-grandparents before them. The souls of all Jews, from all times, came together to hear the Ten Commandments from G‑d Himself.
Here's the cliff notes for the Torah readings for Day 1 (Friday) and Day 2 (Shabbas).

It's also a custom to hear the Book of Ruth recited on the second day of the holiday.
In many synagogues the Book of Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuot. There are several reasons for this custom:

A) Shavuot is the birthday and yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of King David, and the Book of Ruth records his ancestry. Ruth and her husband Boaz were King David's great-grandparents.

B) The scenes of harvesting described in the book of Ruth are appropriate to the Festival of Harvest.

C) Ruth was a sincere convert who embraced Judaism with all her heart. On Shavuot all Jews were converts -- having accepted the Torah and all of its precepts.
On most holidays, we eat meat or fast. On Shavuos, we eat dairy foods.
It is customary to eat dairy foods on the first day of Shavuot. There are a number of reasons for this custom; here are a few:

*On the holiday of Shavuot, a two-loaf bread offering was brought in the Temple. To commemorate this, we eat two meals on Shavuot -- first a dairy meal, and then, after a short interruption, we eat the traditional holiday meat-meal.
*With the giving of the Torah the Jews now became obligated to observe the laws of Kosher. As the Torah was given on Shabbat no cattle could be slaughtered nor could utensils be koshered, and thus on that day they ate dairy.
*The Torah is likened to nourishing milk. Also, the Hebrew word for milk is "chalav." When the numerical value of each of the letters in the word chalav are added together - 8, 30, 2 - the total is forty. Forty is the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai when receiving the Torah.
Your house should be adorned with greenery and flowers.

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