by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
It is ironic that Shavuot is such a little-known holiday, given that it commemorates the single most important event in Jewish history – the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Shavuot occurs on the 6th of Sivan, the culmination of a seven-week period, “counting of the Omer,” that occurs following Passover. The very name “Shavuot” means “weeks,” in recognition of the weeks of preparation and anticipation leading up to the Sinai experience. Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “the holiday of 50 days.” (Shavuot, however, has no connection to the Christian Pentecost holiday.)
Three millennia ago, after leaving Egypt on the day of Passover, the Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. There, the entire Jewish nation – 3 million men, women and children – directly experienced divine revelation:
God spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told you of His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets. (Deut. 4:12-13)
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