Tomorrow evening at sunset, May 26th, begins the holiday of Shavuot.
What is Shavuot? It celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. (Note that it is about the giving, not the receiving, because in Judaism, we are always receiving the Torah.)
Beginning on the second night of Passover, we begin the Counting of the Omer, which leads us to Shavuot 49 days later. Shavuot translates to the Festival of Weeks, in part because of the counting of seven weeks leading up to the holiday.
In Israel, Shavuot is celebrated for one day, while it is celebrated for two in the Diaspora (except for Reform Jews, who celebrate one day). Why is this? Because before the Jewish calendar was fixed by mathematical calculation in 358 CE, new months were determined by witness testimony to the new moon and declared by the Sanhedrin (the ancient Jewish courts). As the diaspora spread, communities became too distant to hear when the new month had been declared. Therefore, a second day was added to insure that they did not risk violating the holiday. The second day remains a celebration to honor the practice.
Shavuot is celebrated with the consumption of dairy products, reading the Book of Ruth, decorating with greenery, and all night Torah study.
Salt Lake County’s two major synagogues are offering “all night” Torah study and Shavuot celebrations. More information can be found on their web sites. Congregation Kol Ami and the Melton School are offering Torah study and a dairy buffet on May 26th (some details on the calendar or page 15 of the newsletter). Bais Menachem (Chabad Lubavitch of Utah) is having Torah study on the 26th, and on the 27th, a reading of the Ten Commandments followed by a Cheesecake and Ice Cream Party.