In Biblical times, when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, Shavuot was the second of three holidays during which pilgrims visited the sacred city and the house of G-D. Shavuot annually marks the completion of 7 weeks since the great exodus from Egypt. On the 50th day (which was the 6th of the month of Sivan), the Torah and the Ten Commandments were given at Mt. Sinai.
About this beautiful and happy holiday, Rabbi H. Donin, author of To Be A Jew, writes: “….this festival is referred to as “zman matan Torateinu, the season of the giving of our Torah, and not of ‘receiving the Torah.’” Why? He explains: “while there is a designated day for ‘giving the Torah’, the Jewish nation is obligated to ‘receive the Torah’ every day!”
These devotees brought the first ripe fruits, bikkurim, (actually, seven agricultural products– two grains and five fruits), affectionately known as “The Seven Species of the Land of Israel,” or Shiv’at Ha’minim (Ex.23:19; Deut.26:1-11). They were escorted to the Temple, where they were welcomed by the Levites with a song.
In the spirit of this lovely holiday, I will conclude with some traditional foods consumed in most Jewish communities. They include cheese blintzes, cheesecake, noodle-cheese kugel, and cheese kreplach (tri-cornered ravioli), cooked in boiling water and rolled in toasted breadcrumbs, or additionally fried in butter! But be warned: you’ll want to have an antacid on hand! Many also serve cold fruit soup. Additionally, some Sephardic Jews bake a bread or cake with 7 layers, which is known as Siete Cielos, or “Seven Heavens,” to symbolize the ascension of Moishe Rabbeinu (Moses) the Lawgiver, to receive the Ten Commandments in Heaven.
A pleasant holiday for all!
Contributed by: Leib Klein, Librarian, Boro Park (53rd Street) Library