The progression of this spiritual year is easy to see when we look at the links between the holidays and all the repeated events that occurred during this season. It is very important not lose the significant connection between Pesach (redemption, salvation) and Shavuot (filling of the Holy Spirit = Wisdom). We see they are connected because we start counting the days of the Omer with Yom Habikkurim (First Fruits), which falls on the day following the first regular Sabbath after Passover. Shavuot falls on the day after the counting of seven Sabbaths. Omer means ‘sheaf’ in Hebrew. A sheaf of grain is a biblical picture of a man. This appointed time is called the Feast of Weeks because we finish counting seven full weeks between bringing in the first sheaf of the barley harvest to bringing in the first sheaf of wheat harvest, which takes place in late May or early June. One event is actually a continuation of the other.

This is the only appointed time in Torah that does not have a specific date assigned to it. We celebrate it as Torah says - it occurs on the 50th day after Yom Habikkurim (First Fruits), the counting of the Omer, and we call it the Feast of Weeks. Shavuot means ‘weeks’ in Hebrew and it is celebrated on the day after the 7th Shabbat past Passover according to Leviticus 16:23, “Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.” It always will fall on a Sunday and is a no work rest day... a Shabbat.

Why such a riddle?

The teachers and sages of old have taught that the actual date has very little meaning, but the celebration itself is loaded with spiritual purpose and values. Traditionally we have accepted that the whole Torah was given to Moses and the whole assembly of the children of Israel on Mt. Sinai at this time of year. Our Heavenly Father doesn't want us to traditionalize a look at His instruction just once a year, as religiosity might demand; if any specific date was named then we would probably stay up all night to dedicate Shavuot as merely the day for studying his Word. He wants us to receive it for study every day of our lives to gain and nurture wisdom. So, there is more to Shavuot. Let's take a closer, more discerning look at what scripture says about this season:

Exodus 19:1-6 says: "In the third month" (this would be 3 months after Passover, coincidentally, the month of Shavuot), "when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and Israel camped there before the mount. And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words, which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel."

Exodus 19:7-11 says: "And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words, which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee forever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai."

Exodus 19:16-17 says: "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightning's, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount."

From Exodus 19 where God prepares them to receive His Word through the upcoming chapters where he orally tells them Torah, wisdom becomes the significant element of Shavuot. The children of Israel experienced the physical removal from slavery, but leaving Egypt was not enough to prepare them to be a kingdom of priests or to make them a unified nation. They also needed to understand and become the same nature of the God they would serve in order to accomplish this destiny. This process came in the form of "instruction", which is what Torah means in Hebrew. The whole Torah (more than 10 commandments, statutes or laws) showed them how to live as a free people in obedience to God.

We also know that the Ruach HaKodesh Holy Spirit settled upon Messiah's talmadim (disciples) at this same time many centuries later to achieve the same thing - to prepare the talmadim in wisdom for their destiny of spreading the "good news". That event has been popularized by the Greek name of Pentecost, which again, specifically means 50th day. We know that all wisdom comes to man through the Ruach HaKodesh.

It is said that King David was born and died during this season. A significant modern day event that occurred on Shavuot is Yom Yerushalayim. The Day of Jerusalem began 7 June 1967, when Israeli armed forces liberated Jerusalem from established Arab control over the old city. The Arab rulers had denied Jewish access to the Western Wall in the old city. Jerusalem was reopened.

Preparation for Shavuot

Some congregations decorate synagogues and homes with plantings of wheat in flower pots that were planted during the Feast of Unleavened Bread or with trimmings of flowering branches, baskets decked in ribbons woven into them and streaming from them to carry the harvest, beautiful plants and flowers.

Families make it a point to serve dairy foods during the feast, a symbol of the land of Israel flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). It is customary to stay up late into the evening to study the scriptures. The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot. After Ruth's husband has left her a widow, this Moabite woman, voluntarily chooses to leave Moab and live in Israel with her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi. Her choice to convert to Judaism and live in true loving kindness toward Naomi offered her the place in history to become the great-grandmother of King David and of course, the lineage of our LORD and Savior Yeshua.

Ruth's story is also read on Shavuot because it takes place during the grain harvests of Judea, which connects with the agricultural aspects of Shavuot. The Book of Ruth shows us the practical applications of the laws of pe'ah, leaving the corners of a field for the poor to harvest, and leket, leaving behind the stalks that fall from sheaves so the poor can glean them.

Another significant message is unveiled in this story. Deuteronomy 23:3 tells us: "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord forever." Yet Ruth is a Moabite. She is the great-grandmother of King David. How could this be? King David was, of course, Hashem's choice, but if left for men to decide - well, perhaps by the letter of their interpretation of the law, many men today may not have let someone like David be king. The point that we learn from this example of Ruth is that it is up to God to determine who is and who is not His royal family and priesthood. When God told Moshe to instruct the nation in Deuteronomy 23:3, God knew there would be Ruth, the Moabite and her great grandson King David. He knows our beginning and our end. He is sovereign.

For those of us who need one, there is a reason why Ruth was not to be excluded from the assembly. The Word calls sin and its penalty "Adam's transgression" in Romans 5:14, 17-18, because Hava (Eve) in Gad Edan did not chose it but was seduced, or tricked. She is never referred to as having brought sin into this world, but was credited as the mother of all living; through her even the Messiah would come into this world. Adam's seed would not father the Messiah. The Messiah would not be fathered from sin and death. In the same vein, the women of Moab did not bring the curse of Deuteronomy 23:3 into that society. The men warred against God and His people and therefore once again solely brought the curse through their generations. From this reason, we can accept that her lineage does not contradict God's instruction to the nation in Deuteronomy 23.

Shavuot is a wonderful time, a joyous season; a continuation of the redemptive process. The whole redemption process can be compared to that of an egg. All eggs undergo two births. The first birth is when the egg leaves the chicken's body, and the second is when it hatches. We are like the children of Israel, born into the slavery of sin in the world (Egypt). Even though we are redeemed, we still have the shell of slavery surrounding us coming out of Egypt. We are brought out of the world and when we become fully alive then we break through the bondage like a chick emerging from its shell. We shed those last remaining signs of slavery when we receive the filling of the Holy Spirit to teach and to comfort us. We put God's words (his instruction, Torah) in our inner parts. When we count the days of the Omer, we count from one to fifty; one after another, symbolizing how one event leads to the next. In the process, we slowly gain spirituality and holiness, until we reach fullness and maturity on the fiftieth day.

During this season, the whole Torah was given to Moses. There are actually two sets of laws within the Ten Commandments: four reflect man's relationship with God, the other six reflect man's relationship toward his fellow man. Still an additional 603 ethical and religious laws bring the total to 613 commandments. Of those 613 commandments, 248 are positive commandments, which are said to correspond to the number of bones in the body; 365 are negative commandments, which are said to correspond to the days of the year. When viewed in concert, this suggests that we Jews devote every single bone in our bodies and every single day of the year to our Heavenly Father when we follow His Torah that was given at Shavuot.

Speaking of numbers...

Let's take a look at the story these representative numbers of His Word have to tell:

There are biblically 70 nations depicted for the world. There are also said to be 70 facets to Torah, or 70 aspects in which it can be understood. The number 70 implies perfection (represented by the number "seven") multiplied by completion (represented by the number "ten").

These 70 facets are divided into four distinct categories: the literal meaning, the suggested meaning, the moral lesson, and the magical mystical significance. The number four is the number that tells of His creative works, the earth or creation.

These 70 facets are spread over five books of instruction, or Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The number "five" is the number that speaks of grace, so isn't it ironic that Torah is often thought of in terms of punitive law?

His creative works "four" plus grace "five" adds up to the conclusion of the matter or judgment (represented by the number "nine").

Here's another thought. There are 66 books in His Word. The number "six" is the number that denotes human achievement or man's best, so the number 66 would be man's perfection said twice or doubled. Let's look at the five (grace filled) books of instruction with 61 books of commentary. The number 61 implies man's perfection "six" multiplied by completion "ten" plus God's sovereignty (represented by the number "one"). This representative number of His Word draws up a picture of God's grace (Torah) standing on one side of man who is multiplied to completion to be added to God himself standing on the other side. (Note: This equation begins and ends with God as He surrounds man.)

Backwards and forwards in letters and numbers, His Word paints a vivid picture of his plan for our salvation.