This evening brings with it the arrival of Shavuot, the Jewish Festival of Weeks. It’s z’man matnat Torateinu - the season of the giving of our Torah. Some call it Pentecost, a reference to the tradition of counting off forty-nine days beginning the second day of Pesach (Passover) - Shavuot being Day 50. Pentecost has, of course, taken on a completely different meaning in the Christian tradition - but it’s useful to know where it all comes from.
Shavuot is one of the three Pilgrimage Festivals, holidays on which the ancient Israelites would travel to Jerusalem with their offerings of animals, grain, and what-not for the Temple. But Shavuot is... different.
Shavuot gets no respect. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of Jewish holidays.
First of all, it’s short. It’s a two-day holiday out here in the Diaspora, unlike Sukkot and Pesach which run eight days.
Second, it has no specific ritual associated with it. On Pesach, you have Seder meals, special holiday-related foods (matzoh, bitter herbs, charoset, e.g.) and special dietary restrictions (no leavened foods or grain). On Sukkot, you dwell in little booths - or at least eat your meals there - and march around waving tree branches and fruit. [Yeah, I know. Weird. But it’s what we do.]
But Shavuot? Nix, nuttin’, zilch, nada, goornisht. Except maybe eating dairy foods, which is traditional but not required.
Third, it doesn’t even have its own date on the calendar. When is it Shavuot? Fifty days after the second day of Passover (i.e., the sixteenth of Nisan). But the date itself will vary based on the peculiarities of the Jewish calendar.
And so, Shavuot is the Holiday that Nobody Knows About. Even Jews are clueless about Shavuot.
It’s high time we change this.
Shavuot needs something to “sex it up.” Something to give it pizzazz.
Shavuot needs a slogan... and I’ve got the perfect one:
Shavuot: It’s Better than Tisha B’Av.
(No need to thank me.)
Inspired by frequent commenter Bob, here’s a Shavuot Rap Ditty for you:
It comes fifty-one days after the start of Pesach,
Which makes it early June. But, yo, what the “fach”
Is the Great Big Deal about Shavu-ish?
Nobody understands it, even if they’re Jewish.
We have a big dinner, eat blintzes (but no pig).
We don’t have to schlep a lulav or esrig.
Don’t have to build a Jew-Booth in the backyard,
With 2 x 4’s that we put on our Home Depot card.
We stay up late, but we don’t feel weary,
Learnin’ Torah and Talmud until our eyes are bleary.
And just in case all this stuff is not enough to love,
The best thing ’bout Shavuot? It isn’t Tisha B’Av.
[sounds of retching and crickets...]