According to the Jewish calendar, the festival of Shavuot – or Weeks, in English – begins at sundown on the 6th of Sivan, which this year happens to be May 23, 2015. It is one of the three pilgrim festivals (Shalosh Regalim) for which Jews were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is also an agricultural festival according to Exodus 23: 16; 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16: 10-12.
Traditionally though, according to B. Shabbat 86b-88a (Tractate Shabbat of the Babylonian Talmud), the Ten Commandments were given on the 6th of Sivan and so Shavuot is known as z’man mattan torateynu, meaning “season of the giving of our Torah”. It is therefore customary for Jews to study the Torah all night. There is an interesting legend about this practice which says that on that night at Sinai, the Israelites were sleeping so soundly they had to be awakened with thunder and lightning. The more practical reason for the all-night study is celebration of God’s guidance revealed in the Torah.
On Sunday, Christians observe the Day of Pentecost – the Greek term derived from fifty days after Easter. According to the First Reading from Acts 2: 1-21, “When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting”. The disciples must have experienced what their ancestors experienced at Sinai!
But what is most significant for both Jews and Christians is God’s revelation and guidance in the Torah and the Holy Spirit. In the Collect we pray “to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort”. There is every reason to celebrate and rejoice, in the Torah and in the Holy Spirit.
On this z’man mattan torateynu, and Day of Pentecost, reflect on why you should celebrate, why you should rejoice and be happy in God’s revelation.