At Neve Hanna Children’s Home, Jewish holidays are celebrated regularly, introducing Jewish heritage to Neve Hanna children. Activities related to the Jewish holidays enhance the sense of solidarity, cooperation and a sense of creativity, as the children stage special performances in the spirit of the holiday. With Shavuot, as with some of the other Jewish holidays, there might be an intimate event in each family group, celebrating the Bikkurim (the first fruits) — the new fruits and successes this year.
The Jewish holiday of Shavuot has a double significance: the agricultural and spiritual. Shavuot combines two major religious observances. First is the grain harvest of the early summer. Second is the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt. The first determines the ritual for the holiday, which was one of the three pilgrimage festivals of ancient Israel, when Israelite males were commanded to appear before God in Jerusalem, bringing offerings of the first fruits of their harvest. The second determines the significance of the holiday for Judaism, tying it in with the seminal event of Jewish religious memory, namely the entering into a covenant between God and Israel, exemplified by Israel’s assumption of Divine law. Shavuot reminds us of our strong connection to Eretz Yisrael.
Since Shavuot is an ancient pilgrimage holiday, it is not surprising that its ritual focuses on the community. Nonetheless, there are a number of customs associated with personal practice. Chief among them is the eating of dairy products on Shavuot. It has become traditional to eat milk and cheese products as part of the celebration of Shavuot—the enjoyment of cheesecake and blintzes!
Much of the observance of the holiday centers on its rituals with special readings including medieval poems (piyyutim) and the Book of Ruth. Another tradition is to participate in a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all-night study session marking the holiday. Shavuot is one of the holidays on which both Hallel, the Psalms of Praise, is recited and Yizkor, the memorial service is observed.
By associating an ancient holiday of the grain harvest with the exodus from Egypt, Jewish tradition has imbued Shavuot with religious significance derived from the foundational event in Jewish historical consciousness. In the specific case of Shavuot, this takes the form of the entering into a covenant or formal agreement between God and Israel at Mount Sinai. This is a joyous time when God and Israel entered into a figurative marriage with each other, the hopeful springtime of their relationship.
In Israel, Shavuot is the holiday of water. In the center of many cities, massive crowds engage in water fights on the holiday, tossing water balloons at each other or spraying each other with water guns. Others embrace the water idea by taking hikes along rivers and streams.
According to the Hebrew calendar, we celebrate all the Jewish – Israeli holidays and memorial days. We do it by ceremony or activity, special meals and blessings. From our Neve Hanna family to yours, Chag Sameach Shavuot! May the first fruits of the season bring you good harvest and good fortune in the year ahead!