What is Shavuot

Shavuot is the second of the three pilgrimage festivals. Just like Passover and Sukkot, this festival was celebrated at the time of the two temples with a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and sacrifices in the temple.

Today, Shavuot is celebrated in Israel with a series of major harvest festivals. Children, in white clothes, with wreaths and branches in their hands, wander through the city. The houses are decorated with colorful flags and ribbons.
The name Shavuot comes from the seven weeks that lie between Passover and this festival of weeks. That is, Shavuot is celebrated on the 50th day after Passover.


The second pilgrimage festival has a historical and a nature-related meaning.
The historical background of Shavuot is the bringing out of the Israelites from Egypt in the Jewish month of Nissan (March / April) and the 49 days later God's revelation on Mount Sinai on the sixth Sivan (May / June). Liberation from Egyptian bondage and receiving the ten commandments of God (Torah practice) are highlights of Jewish history. Shavuot is thus the "festival of Torah practice".

At the same time, this festival of the week is also the "festival of the harvest". Because it takes place in the time of the wheat harvest.
A connection between the historical and a nature-related meaning of the Shavuot is made in the Talmudic treatise Psika Sutrata, in which it says: "Fifty days pass before the apple blossom develops into a fruit; the people of Israel waited fifty days in the desert before they received the Torah from the hand of the Lord."

How is Shavuot celebrated?

Shavuot has two festive days. All the customs that are observed during this time are symbolically related to the events on Mount Sinai. So on the first night of the festival, believing Jews watch in the prayer or teaching house, if possible in groups of ten, in order to purify themselves and purify their souls following the example of their ancestors in the desert. They also take turns reading specific passages from the Torah. A total of thirteen kaddish prayers are also recited. The word Echad (13) means "unique" and applies to God's uniqueness.

On both feast days there is a divine service in which the book of Moses is read aloud. In addition, the houses and synagogues are decorated with green branches and flowers, so that everything is green and smelling. This is intended to be a reminder of the first fruits and is also an indication of honoring the Torah.

Believers report about it: "The scent of elderflower permeated the whole house, and we breathed it for two days and two nights. The two festive days [...] seemed like an uninterrupted fairy tale. as much as the heart desired; then one went through the sunlit young seed into the synagogue, and at home a festive lunch was waiting ".

Shavuot is not only a major holiday when work is stopped and people are supposed to be happy, but it is also a festival dedicated to religious education. Because at this time a lot is read from the Torah and an old saying of the orphans is: "The more Torah, the more life. The more learning, the more wisdom".

Furthermore, an important event in their lives awaits the Jewish children - they are enrolled in the cheder (Jewish elementary school). So that you keep a "sweet" memory of it, you will be given special honey cakes with Toraverse on them.

Traditional food at Shavuot

In the Torah it says: "And I came down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them out of this land into a good and wide land, into a land in which milk and honey flow". Milk and honey also flow during the preparation of the dishes at Shavuot. There are mainly sweet and dairy dishes such as Blinzes, pancakes, Kreplach, strudel and pierogi.

The dairy dishes in particular symbolize what is happening on Mount Sinai. They are also important in that the numerical value of the word chalaw (milk) is 40 and Moses had to wait 40 days on Mount Sinai before receiving the commandments of God.

Among the desserts, cakes in the shape of the tablets of the law or cone-shaped pastries, which are supposed to represent Mount Sinai, are particularly popular. Furthermore, one is proud of the large, round cakes consisting of seven layers, which symbolize the seven heavens that the Lord descended to the mountain at the divine revelation. In addition to numerous sweet dishes, there are also meat dishes.
Two main meals are eaten during each of the two festive days. Care is taken to ensure that the first meal consists of dairy dishes and the second consists of meat dishes. These two dishes must not be mixed. Some families even separate their dishes into meaty and milky.
Both meals should remind of the main dishes of the Passover festival, the Passover lamb and the peace offering. So Shavuot is actually an extension of Passover.

Recipe for a typical Schawout dish

Milchidiger Lokschenkugel (pasta ball with quark and apples)

You take:
3 egg yolks, 2 cups quark, 3 spoons of sugar, ¾-1 cup of milk, 3 spoons of butter or melted margarine, 1 cup of raisins, 6 finely chopped plums, 5 peeled and grated apples, 3 egg whites, 400g thin cooked noodles, 2 spoons of cinnamon, 6 spoons of sugar

Preparation: In a large bowl, stir the egg yolks with the sugar, gradually add the quark, milk, melted lukewarm margarine or butter, apples, raisins and plums. Mix everything well. Add the cooked, drained noodles and finally fold in the stiff egg whites. Pour into the greased form, sprinkle the surface with the sugar-cinnamon mixture and drizzle with melted butter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius. (enough for 6 to 8 people)

written by: Anne B.
Elective basic course "Jewish history and culture" 2000/2001