Shavuot: Background, Sources & Teacher Focus
I. Festival Names
Shavuot, lit.: "Weeks"
Festival of the Giving of the Torah [law]
Festival of the First Fruits
Date: 50 days from the beginning of Pesach
6th Sivan [6-7th in the Diaspora]
II. Sources in the Written Law
"Seven weeks shall you count for yourself. When the scythe is lifted
on the ..., you shall begin counting seven weeks. And you shall make
the Festival of Shavuot [Weeks] before the L-d your G-d."
Devarim - Deuteronomy 16
"And on the day when the first fruits are brought, when you bring the
grain offering of the new harvest before your G-d, on Shavuot, you
shall have a festival..."
Bamidbar - Numbers 28
"The festival of theharvest of the first fruits of your labor, which
you sowed in your field..."
Shemot - Exodus 23
III. Source in the Siddur [Prayer Book]
"The days of the festival Shavuot, the time of the giving of the
IV. Sources for Counting the Omer
"When you enter the land which I give you and you begin the harvest,
you will bring the first tythe [omer] to the cohen [priest]. And he
shall offer the omer before G-d as a thanksgiving offering; on the
second day of the festival [Pesach] shall the cohen offer it up."
Vayikra - Leviticus 23: 10-11
"On the second day of the festival of Pesach, on the 16th day of the
month of Nisan, in addition to the ordinary offerings additional
offerings of an omer of barley shall be brought in the Temple. This
offering shall be brought only from the produce of Eretz Yisrael. It
is desirable to crop the barley in the Jerusalem region, but where
this is not possible, any location will suffice. The time of harvest
is the eve of the 16th of Nisan, irrespective of whether this falls on
a weekday or the Sabbath.
"It was done in the following manner:
On the eve of the festival, it was the custom to go out into the field
and bind a small number of standing ears of barley, to facilitate the
cutting. All those who lived in the nearby settlements would come out
to the point where the omer was to be cropped, in order to accord the
event its due importance. Three men, with a scythe each, would cut
down three large measures [each of 13 liters] of barley and pile them
into three baskets.
"The barley would then be brought to the Temple, where it was blessed
and waived. It was subsequently .... over the fire and then scattered
to the winds in the Temple courtyard. The grain itself was ground and
a tenth measure would be separated off [4 liters].
"On the 16th of Nisan, the flour would be mixed with olive oil, in
the manner of any grain offering, after which it would be offered up
on the large altar, as all grain offerings."
Rambam, Sefer haDibrot, Osseh 44
- What offering is described in the passages above?
- What is the Omer?
- When does barley ripen in Eretz Yisrael?
- When was the tithe of barley brought as an offering to the Temple in
["Seven weeks shall you count for yourself. When the scythe is lifted on the ...,
you shall begin counting seven weeks. And you shall make the Festival of Shavuot
[Weeks] before the L-d your G-d." Deuteronomy 16
"When the scythe is lifted" refers to the beginning of the barley harvest
- the offering of the first tithe of barley on the 16th of Nisan.]
- How many days after the second day of Pesach does the festival of Shavuot fall?
- Greek-speaking Jews in ancient times gave the Shavuot festival the name of
Pentecost. Explain. [50 day period]
- Why is the festival named Shavuot?
- Does this biblical text give a precise date for the begining of the Shavuot festival?
- Why is the period of counting days up to Shavuot known as the "Omer"?
- Who had to count the days from Pesach to Shavuot?