Shavout (Pentecost)

Shavout, the second of the pilgrim festivals, is celebrated for two days, seven weeks after the second day of Passover. The festival celebrates the giving of the Torah. Seven weeks after the Exodus from Egypt the Jewish people stood at the foot of Mount Sinai. There in the desert the greatest of all historical events occurred. It would take the nation 40 more years to receive the entire Torah, but it began here at Sinai with the giving of The Ten Commandments. It was also called The Festival of The First Fruit in Temple times. The Jewish people came from all over the country to offer up the first fruits. In modern times, the Synagogue is decorated with greenery and flowers.

Tradition has is that King David was born and died on Shavout. The book of Ruth, telling the story of Ruth the ancestor of King David, is recited because the story took place during the wheat harvest.

A delicious custom of Shavuot is to serve dairy foods. Cheese blintzes (pancakes with fillings), herring in cream sauce, macaroni and cheese, and vegetable lasagne are very typical. Some serve dairy foods only on the first day; while others eat dairy throughout the festival, except on the Sabbath.

One explanation for this custom is the commemoration of the land of Israel flowing with milk and honey. Another reason is that when the Jews first received The Ten Commandments on Shavuot, they were not yet well versed in the intricate laws of shechitah (kosher slaughtering), so rather than eat meat, they ate only dairy foods.

• Lighting candles both nights
• Hearing The Ten Commandments read in the Synagogue