Pentecost or Shavuot (Sha-voo-OTE) is celebrated 50 days after Passover. This celebration is also known as the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Day of Firstfruits. The Lord refers to this feast in Exodus as an “ingathering, which means a time of collecting and securing the harvest.
The traditional Jewish calendar is based on a lunisolar calendar, with 354 days. This means that while Jewish holidays are observed on the same date every year according to the Jewish calendar, these dates vary on the Gregorian calendar. The celebration of this date falls somewhere between mid-May through mid-June.
Follow the link for future dates of this Feast Day: https://www.infoplease.com/calendars/holidays/jewish-holidays
The Lord’s Commandment
“Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.”
“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.”
The Significance of Pentecost
The Presence of the Lord
In the Passover exodus, God brought His people out from among the nations to set them apart as a nation unto Himself. The Israelite’s journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai took 45 days to accomplish. After arriving, Moses went up the mountain to speak with God. It is believed there were five days between their arrival and the day God came down the mountain for the people to experience His presence and power. God desired to make Himself known to His people in all His Glory.
“Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”
Shavuot commemorates the first fruits of the wheat harvest, which were dedicated to the Lord in anticipation of a fuller harvest to come. It celebrates joy and thankfulness for the Lord’s blessing and provision.
As with the other harvest feasts, God’s people were instructed to present grain offerings to the Lord before they ate of it themselves. (Lev 23:16) This particular harvest, however, had one more condition. The Israelites were not to reap to the very edges of their fields or gather the gleanings. (Lev 23:22). In a demonstration of His mercy, God instructed the harvesters to leave the corners and edges of the fields untouched so that the poor and immigrants could gather grain to feed themselves. This comes into play in the story of Ruth, which is read on the eve of Shavuot.
As the times progressed, many of the Rabbis of that day began to say that Shavuot was the day that the Torah (Book of Law) was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. This is believed because the “giving of the law” had occurred in the third month. In time, this Feast Day evolved into more of a celebration of the giving of the Law and the focus on the Feast of Firstfruits diminished.
The Meaning of Shavuot from Scripture
A name in the Hebrew culture reflected the significant character, history, or meaning of that to which they were attached. Four separate names used by the Hebrew Scriptures for the feast of Shavuot (“shah-voo-OHT,” “weeks”)
- Most common – Chahg hah-shah-voo-OHT “the Feast of Weeks” (Ex. 34:22; Deut. 16:10; 2 Chr. 8:13)
- yohm hah-bee-koo-REEM – “the Day of Firstfruits” (Num. 28:26), since Shavuot was the day on which the firstfruit offerings of the summer wheat crop were brought to the Temple. This feast marked the beginning of the summer wheat harvest just as the earlier Feast of Firstfruits marked the beginning of the spring barley harvest.
- yohm hah-kaht-zeer – “the Feast of Harvest” (Ex. 23:16), according to the Talmud and Josephus, the name is aht-ZE-ret, meaning “solemn assembly” since this feast was the conclusion of the Passover season and of the seven-week spring harvest since there are no other major Jewish holy days until the autumn (see Talmud, Pesachim 42b).
- Pentecost – according to the Greek language (Acts 2:1; 2 Macc. 12:32), meaning “fiftieth,” since it was celebrated on the 50th day from the Feast of Firstfruits.
(Life in Messiah website: http://www.lifeinmessiah.org)
As Shavuot has come to represent the sanctity of the Torah (The Law), many Jews spend the first night studying the scriptures. “It was an ancient custom for Jews to remain awake for the entire first night of Shavuot to study Torah. The Book of Ruth is often fully recited to the entire family, as is the prayer of supplication from Deuteronomy 26:5-10 that begins, “My father was once was a wandering Aramean.”
Milk and Honey
Many Jews celebrate the first day of Shavuot by preparing beloved dairy and honey-based foods like cheesecakes, blintzes, and kugel. Some suggest this is in remembrance of God’s fulfillment of his promise to lead his people to a “land flowing with milk and honey,” while others point to scriptures being “milk and honey to the soul.”
It is also customary to bake two loaves of challah bread on Shavuot. These represent the two loaves of bread offered in the Temple, and the two tablets of the Law received on Mount Sinai.
Shavuot and Jesus
The entire spring season of Israel, from Passover to Pentecost, speaks of God’s Plan to harvest a holy people for Himself. First, Jesus died as the perfect, sinless sacrifice, then He arose to become the firstfruits of the dead.
Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem following his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. They were all together in the upper room on Shavuot, the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover week.
The Holy Spirit filled the house with a sound like a mighty wind, and what appeared to be tongues of fire filled the disciples (Acts 2). Peter, filled with the mighty power of the Spirit, gave an impassioned message of repentance that was heard by all, each in his own tongue.
This message was enthusiastically received, and 3,000 people came to believe in their Messiah that day. A new covenant was made! A New Covenant that is the promise that God will forgive sin and restore fellowship with those whose hearts are turned toward Him. Jesus Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant, and His death on the cross is the basis of the promise (Luke 22:20).
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has set us apart by Your commandments and commanded us to be a light to the nations and has given us Yeshua, our Messiah, the Light of the World.