Last week we considered the interesting connections between the first Shavu’ot (Pentecost) at Mt. Sinai and the second Shavu’ot found in Acts 2. Both involved a gift from our King: His spoken Instructions and Principles recorded on stone by His own finger at Mt Sinai (the Torah) and those same Instructions and Principles now written by His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Breath/Spirit) on our hearts and minds. We were reminded that King David and Yeshua both identified YHVH’s Word as Truth…and that Yeshua, at his return upon the white horse as King and Ruler of the Universe, is identified as “The Word of God”. Such is the “crimson thread” of Shavu’ot that runs throughout the story of all who are the people of His Kingdom.
This week I simply wish to provide for you a basic knowledge of the actual celebration of Shavu’ot. This will help you to continue to prepare your heart and your home for this remarkable Kingdom Holy Day. Next week we will look more deeply at the spiritual significance and beauty of this second of Yahweh’s three major Feast seasons in our year.
One of the primary goals of the Shavu’ot celebration is to visibly demonstrate the connection between Yahweh, the Land, the Torah, and the People. In God’s mind, and in the Hebrew mind, these are inseparable. You cannot have one without embracing the others. This is the Kingdom package, sealed together in an eternal covenant crafted by the King of the universe. It is unchangeable.
Shavu’ot is also a holiday of Liberty – a Day of Jubilee – in which the focus is on the incredible Covenant between God and His people. We recommit ourselves to Him. We renew our wedding vows of our betrothal. We make ourselves fully mindful that is our covenant-based relationship with the King of the universe that ensures to us a lifestyle, now and in the future, that is free from the bondages and oppression of the world’s systems and pagan ways. On this day, we who were once not a people became His people. Shavu’ot is a royal celebration of a Bride that fully belongs to her Groom!
Shavu’ot in the Torah
In Israel, the wheat harvest is now in along with all the spring crops of the land. The trees and plants of the land are busy bearing and ripening the fruits of the fall harvest. Anticipation over God’s coming provisions are high and filled with joy. Shavu’ot is a time to be grateful for yet another first fruits harvest of provision as we move through the year. As with Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), Shavu’ot moves God’s people forward into the fullness of His kingdom – harvest by harvest, provision by provision, promise by promise – until all that He has destined for us is completed!
From the day after the day of rest — that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving — you are to count seven full weeks, until the day after the seventh week; you are to count fifty days; and then you are to present a new grain offering to Adonai.
You must bring bread from your homes for waving — two loaves made with one gallon of fine flour, baked with leaven — as firstfruits for Adonai.
Along with the bread, present seven lambs without defect one year old, one young bull and two rams; these will be a burnt offering for Adonai, with their grain and drink offerings, an offering made by fire as a fragrant aroma for Adonai.
Offer one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs one year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings.
The cohen will wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before Adonai, with the two lambs; these will be holy for Adonai for the cohen.
On the same day, you are to call a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live.
When you harvest the ripe crops produced in your land, don’t harvest all the way to the corners of your field, and don’t gather the ears of grain left by the harvesters; leave them for the poor and the foreigner; I am Adonai your God. – Leviticus 23: 15-22
The Book of Ruth
During Shavu’ot the story of Ruth is read. Ruth was a Moabite (Moab was one of Israel’s worst enemies). She left her homeland and her pagan ways to become one with Israel. Her story centers in Bethlehem, which would become the childhood home of her direct descendant, King David, and the birthplace of Yeshua. Ruth is also in the direct lineage of Yeshua, our Messiah.
Prophetically Ruth represents Ephraim (the lost Israelites of the northern kingdom) and all who come in from the pagan nations throughout history to be rejoined to the whole House of Israel being reunited in Messiah. (Deuteronomy 29:13 -14 “But I am not making this covenant and this oath only with you. Rather, I am making it both with him who is standing here with us today before Adonai our God and also with him who is not here with us today.”) YHVH has always made provision for people of every nation and tribe to become a part of His Kingdom, both on the earth and throughout eternity.
Israel’s first and primary call as a nation is to be His unique treasure, set apart from all other nations by a distinguishable culture, lifestyle, celebrations, and system of morality and justice that was given to them by YHVH at Mt Sinai. The purpose of their unique and powerful call? To be His Light unto all the nations and peoples of the earth so that they too could abandon their foolish pagan ways and become one again with Him.
The Book of Ruth is a beautiful story of this intimate process of redemption, love, and finding a home. Ruth’s account starts in loss and tragedy while living in a foreign land. She crosses over into Israel and the ways of YHVH through Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law, who is God’s Light to her. Ruth’s life is transformed, and she steps into a life of protection, favor, and blessing. For most of us in the church today, her story is our story!
The Book of Acts
By no coincidence, YHVH fulfills His promise to write the Torah in the minds and on the hearts of His people on Shavu’ot. He does this by replacing hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, circumcised by His hand, and made ready for the giving of the gift of His Spirit. The events of that Shavu’ot are found in Acts 2.
The festival of Shavu`ot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them. They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh [Holy Spirit] and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
Now there were staying in Yerushalayim religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered; they were confused, because each one heard the believers speaking in his own language.
Totally amazed, they asked, “How is this possible? Aren’t all these people who are speaking from the Galil? How is it that we hear them speaking in our native languages? We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Y’hudah, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome; Jews by birth and proselytes; Jews from Crete and from Arabia. . . ! How is it that we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done?” Amazed and confused, they all went on asking each other, “What can this mean?” But others made fun of them and said, “They’ve just had too much wine!”
Then Kefa stood up with the Eleven and raised his voice to address them: “You Judeans, and all of you staying here in Yerushalayim! Let me tell you what this means! Listen carefully to me! These people aren’t drunk, as you suppose—it’s only nine in the morning. No, this is what was spoken about through the prophet Yo’el [Joel]:
Adonai says: ‘In the Last Days, I will pour out from my Spirit upon everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my slaves, both men and women, will I pour out from my Spirit in those days; and they will prophesy. … And then, whoever calls on the name of Adonai will be saved.’” — Acts 2:1-21
Shavu’ot as a Historical Holiday
Several key historical events relevant to the Hebrew nation take place in direct relation to Shavu’ot.
- The giving of the Torah to Moses and the people of Israel at Mt Sinai as an eternal covenant
- King David’s Birthday – also the day on which he died
- The giving of Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in the upper room in Acts 2 – the Word of YHVH is now written on the hearts and in the minds of those who love and follow Him
- 1967 – Israel regained control of the Western Wall just before the holiday – on Shavu’ot that year the Western Wall was open to Jewish visitors for the first time – 200,000 Jews walked thru the streets of Jerusalem to worship at the wall – this restored the aspect of a pilgrimage feast to Jerusalem for Shavu’ot to celebrate and to study the Torah – this Walk to the Western Wall continues today on every Shavu’ot
Shavu’ot as a Spiritual Holiday
The spiritual focus in Shavu’ot is celebrating the completion of our Season of Deliverance. On Pesach we were freed from our bondages [Egypt]. We stepped out of a kingdom of man and into the Kingdom of YHVH. On Shavu’ot we were delivered in mind and spirit as YHVH gave to us the Torah for the renewing of our minds and teaching us to how walk in the lifestyle of His Kingdom. By His Spirit now dwelling in us, we are fully empowered to live that life just as Yeshua did… and still does.
Perhaps the most beautiful spiritual aspect of Shavu’ot is found in the context of our relationship with our Groom – the King of Kings. The experience between YHVH and Israel at Mt Sinai is in every way the dramatic and highly charged picture of a “heaven on earth event”; the betrothal of a people to the King of Kings as His eternal Bride. We will go into this in greater detail next week.
In the meantime, consider that YHVH (whose very name means “Behold the Hand, Behold the Nail”) calls a nation of people out from amongst the fallen systems of the world to fulfill a promise He made to their fathers – to make them His own unique treasure upon the earth. YHVH rescues them from a place of deep bondage and brings them to a high place in which the two of them – YHVH and the people (in one voice) – agree to an eternal covenant based fully on the King and His Kingdom. The heads of their households share a “covenant meal” together in the presence of the very Creator of the Universe, forever binding the Bride and the Groom to one another. As we move closer to celebrating Shavu’ot, dwell on this picture. You belong to Him, and He to you. Your destiny was sealed on that magnificent day!
Hebrew Traditions That Guide Our Shavu’ot Celebration
The events and practices that are a part of today’s celebration of Shavu’ot are shaped by YHVH’s instructions for His Feast Day found in the Torah, the beautiful images of Shavu’ot found in the life of Ruth, and the experiences of the early church recorded in the Book of Acts.
In the home and with our family:
- In honor of the spring harvest, homes are decorated with green branches and flowers.
- Lighting the Holy Day candles and reciting the holiday blessing for Shavu’ot
- Enjoying a family feast! Fresh baked loaves of bread – in remembrance of the waving of the two Shavu’ot loaves by the priests. Dairy products are a huge part of the foods eaten on Shavu’ot. Dairy is considered the humble food of shepherds – one must be humble to study and follow Torah. (Ruth found her new life in Bethlehem, the place of the Temple sheep and shepherds. King David was a shepherd. Yeshua is our Great Shepherd.) Dairy foods are also considered pure – like the milk of God’s Word. Dairy-based foods are considered the perfect food to celebrate Yahweh’s divine providence over our lives. Cheesecake is common highlight of the feasting!
- The day of Shavu’ot is a Shabbat – a sabbath day of rest. Families assemble in synagogues/churches. They also spend time outdoors in gatherings with families and friends.
- A family reading of and recommitment to the Ten Commandments and the lifestyle it carries with it.
In the community:
- Giving food to the poor – to honor the Torah principle of leaving some crops in the fields so the poor can glean.
- In Israel there are community outdoor festivals taking place everywhere. Most are centered on farms and other rural areas to strengthen the connection between the people and the Land. There are programs filled with music, Hebrew folk dancing, and celebrating their identity as Israelis.
- People dress festively – many in Israeli folk clothes – and the ladies wear flowers in their hair.
- Attendance as a community at synagogue for special Shavu’ot services.
- During the night of Shavu’ot there are many gatherings taking place in homes, synagogues and conference rooms where attended will stay up the entire night of Erev Shavu’ot to read, study and discuss the Torah. This is done out of honor for God’s Word, and in understanding that our entire life is to be based on the Kingdom lifestyle that it gives to us.
- In Jerusalem there is a pilgrimage walk to the Western Wall filled with rejoicing and song. This commemorates the reclaiming of the Western Wall and Temple Mount during the 1967 Seven Day War with Jordan that took place just before Shavu’ot.
In the synagogue:
- Synagogues, just like homes, are decorated in green branches and flowers.
- Special holiday blessings and reflections on our life as an eternal part of God’s people are given.
- The Book of Ruth is publicly read (cantered).
I trust that all that I have shared above will be of help to you as you craft your celebration of Shavu’ot. As followers of Yeshua, many of us are most familiar with the Shavu’ot of Acts 2. Our tendency is to focus entirely on that event. Yet it is vital for us to go all the way back to the beginning of Shavu’ot so that we can gain a deeper understanding of the love of Yahweh for all of His people that is woven so strongly into this tremendous Biblical Feast Day. The events of Acts 2 would not have taken place as they did without the roots of that day that YHVH established thousands of years earlier!
Are you preparing to be in God’s presence on Shavu’ot to celebrate with Him? Don’t miss the party, for it is indeed a celebration of your eternal betrothal to the King of Kings. Happy Anniversary!!!
©Deborah Munson, 2020