What the heck is Shavuot?

I’m from Utah.  I’m allowed to say “heck”  …

Sean Altman (of Jewmongous and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) famously asked “What the Hell is Simchas Torah?”  But I face the same question on a yearly basis for any Jewish holiday that isn’t Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Purim, Christmas, or Hanukkah.

And that includes Shavuot – the holiday that starts this Tuesday at sundown.

Fortunately, there’s Wikipedia, Allison Goldstein of Sixth & I, and Chabad weekly newsletters.  They’ve helped me relearn that 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 week after the Exodus from Egypt.”

I’ve never farmed, and I’ve never exactly shot 100% on the Ten Commandments (I’m especially bad at 3, 4, and 10), but I can fortunately still connect with the holiday because we observe it by staying up late, reading the Torah, and eating dairy (this author recommends Mr. Yogato) – all of which are things I do on a nightly basis (substitute fantasy books for Torah).

But in all seriousness, this is an especially important holiday because though much has changed about the nature of Jews and the world around us, the Torah remains the centerpiece of the Jewish religion.  And even for we Western Secular Humanists, there’s no denying the influence that the Torah has had on Jewish culture, humor, food, business, etc., as well as on the non-Jewish Western world…  And it all started on Shavuot!

So…

How exactly did we get the Ten Commandments?

Where can we go to hang out with other Jews on Shavuot?

Which Shavuot activities do you especially recommend?

  • Late night learning and eating – with Tikkun Leil Shabbat, Etz Chayim, DC Beit Midrash, and Kayam Farm.  More info.