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Monday, Iyar 29, 5779 / June 3, 2019 (44th day of the Omer)


Shabbat night will begin the Holiday of Shavuot. It is a two day holiday in the diaspora, Sunday & Monday. In Israel it is only a one day holiday.


Shavuot is the holiday when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.


Q. How many days after the Exodus did G-d give the Torah?


A. Fifty days. This is why we count the Omer for a period of 49 days from Pesach. On the 50th day we celebrate Shavuot.


Q.How many names does the holiday of Shavuot have?


A. Shavuot has five names. In addition to the names "Shavuot" and “Atzeret," it is also called "Chag Habikurim" - "Festival of the First Fruits."  It is also known as, "Chag HaKatzir" - "Festival of the Harvest" and "Z'Man Matan Torateinu" - "Season of the Giving of the Torah."


Q. Are there any specific laws which apply to Shavuot, like we have with all other holidays?


A. In the days of the Temple there were specific sacrifices required specially for Shavuot. However, today there are no special laws and requirements which are unique to this holiday, except for refraining from work as in other holidays. However, the following customs are associated with Shavuot:  1) We eat dairy on Shavuot.  2) The first night of the holiday is spent studying Torah. 3) Many decorate the synagogue with branches and greenery for Shavuot.


Reasons for eating dairy on Shavuot:At Mount Sinai, the Jewish people were given the Ten Commandments along with the rest of the Torah including the laws of Kashrut.  As a result, when they returned to their tents after receiving the Torah, they couldn't use their cooking utensils which they used before as they were now "Treif" (non Kosher). Without cooking utensils, they had no choice but to eat dairy on that day. We comemmorate that by eating dairy to show that not only the Ten Commandments were given at Mount Sinai, but the entire Torah.


Reason for staying up and studying Torah during the first night of Shavuot: G-d came down on Mount Sinai to give the Torah, very early in the morning, but the people were still asleep. G-d waited for them until they woke up. We stay up the first night of Shavuot studying Torah to correct this error.


Reason for decorating the synagogue with trees: The Torah was given at Mount Sinai which is in the desert. However, in honor of the Giving of the Torah G-d performed a special miracle and the entire area surrounding the mountain sprouted trees and grass. To commemorate this miracle we decorate the synagogue with branches, trees and plants.