When you think of Jewish holidays, a few may come to mind. Hanukkah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, maybe. But what about Shavuot?

The holiday — meaning “weeks” in Hebrew and referred to as the “Feast of Weeks” — celebrates the Jews receiving the Torah (the Jewish Bible) from God on Mount Sinai; it is the end of a seven-week (49-day) count called the Omer, which begins during Passover, the holiday when Jews participate in seders and remember how they were freed from Egyptian slavery.

What is Shavuot?

While some people may not be familiar with the holiday, it is an important holiday for Jews, explains Rabbi Motti Seligson, the director of media relations at Chabad.org.

Shavuot coincides with the early summer grain harvest and is one of the three pilgrimage festivals mentioned in the Torah. The other two are Passover and Sukkot. The grain harvest “was one of the three pilgrimage festivals of ancient Israel, when Israelite men were commanded to appear before God in Jerusalem and offer sacrifices of the firstfruits of their harvest,” according to MyJewishLearning.com.

Jewish holiday

Jews who celebrate the holiday of Shavuot typically reflect on themselves during the 49-day “Omer count” period and work on their spiritual growth.

In case you missed it: Conversation Chaos, Prayers and Hope: My Passover Seder on Zoom in the Time of Coronavirus

When is Shavuot?

This year it starts on the evening of Saturday 4 June and lasts until the evening of Monday 6 June. It always falls on the Hebrew calendar 6 Sivan through 7 Sivan.

The Hebrew and Gregorian calendars do not match, so the dates vary each year in the US

How is Shavuot celebrated? And why is it traditional to eat dairy on Shavuot?

Not all Jews celebrate every holiday in the same way. “People have different levels of compliance,” Seligson says. “The most observed Jewish holiday in the United States is Passover.”

Still, Shavuot is a special holiday, Seligson says, and the main way to mark it is to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments from a Torah scroll.

Traditions also include staying up all night studying Torah and eating dairy.

“The morning of receiving the Torah (the Jews) slept late, and to make up for that, we stay up all night, study the Torah the first night of Shavuot, and really prove our dignity and excitement and enthusiasm for the Torah,” Seligson says.

The dairy component distinguishes Shavuot from other Jewish holidays where meat is traditionally central.

On Shavout are typical dishes such as stuffed blintzes and cheesecake. There is an ongoing debate about the origins of why this food group is associated with the holiday. Some say the tradition is derived from directions in scripture, and others say it came about because dairy was abundant during the spring harvests, according to MyJewishLearning.com.

Other customs include reading from the Book of Ruth and decorating synagogues with fresh flowers, “in the spirit of how Mount Sinai miraculously bloomed just before the giving of the Torah,” Seligson says.

Seligson’s favorite part of the holiday is the emphasis on togetherness. “For me, it’s really coming together with the community to hear the 10 commandments because the holiday is really about unity,” he says. “When the Jews were gathered on Mount Sinai, there was a very strong sense of unity.”


I have been blogging since August 2011. I have had over 10,000 visitors to my blog! My goal is to help people, and I have the knowledge and the passion to do this. I love to travel, dance, and play volleyball. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends and family. I started writing my blogs when I lived in California. I would wake up in the middle of the night and write something while listening to music and looking at the ocean. When I moved to Texas, I found a new place to write. I would sit in my backyard while everyone else was at work, and I could write all day.