Shavou’ot (Pentecost) guide for the perplexed, 2024

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative”    June 9, 2024,

  1. Shavou’ot(June 11-12, 2024) and the Land of Israel

*Shavou’ot commemorates the receipt of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses). It is one of the three liberty-driven Jewish pilgrimages to Jerusalem:  Passover, Shavou’ot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Tabernacles). It documents the critical linkage between Judaism, the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. These pilgrimages constitute central milestones in the formation of Jewish history and the 4,000-year-old Jewish roots in the Land of Israel.

*Shavou’ot is an historical, national, agricultural and a spiritual extension of Passover. Passover highlights the physical liberty from slavery in Egypt; Shavou’ot highlights spiritual liberty, embracing the values of the Five Books of Moses, the Ten Commandments and The Ethics of our Fathers (Pirkey Avot). Therefore, the eve of Shavou’ot is dedicated to an all-night study of Jewish values.

*Shavou’ot is also called the Holiday of the Harvest (Bikoorim in Hebrew), since it concludes the harvesting season, which starts during Passover.

*Shavou’ot commemorates the 40 years of the Exodus, which entailed tough challenges on the road to the Land of Israel, forging the state-of-mind of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.

*Shavou’ot means “weeks” in Hebrew and its root is identical to the root of the Hebrew word for “vows” (???), which is the same word for “seven.” It documents the seven weeks between Passover (the Exodus) and Shavou’ot.

*Shavou’ot highlights the prerequisites for a secure Land of Israel: the willingness to sustain blood, sweat and tears; faith and principle-driven tenacity in the face of severe odds; the steeper the hurdle, the more critical is the mission; crises are opportunities in disguise.

  1. 2. Shavou’ot’s impact on the formation of the US

*The holiday of Shavou’ot commemorates the legacy of Moses, which had a significant impact on the Early Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers, and the formation of the US culture, civic life, the federal system (e.g., the Separation of Powers), the US Revolution, The Federalist Papers, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

*The Liberty Bell and the Abolitionist Movement were inspired by the Biblical concept of Jubilee – the role model of Biblical liberty – which is a cardinal component of the Mosaic legacy. The essence of the Jubilee is engraved on the Liberty Bell: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus 25:10).”

*The Liberty Bell was installed in Philadelphia in 1752, 50 years following William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, and eventually inspiring the 50 States in the union. According to the Biblical Jubilee, all slaves must be released, and land must be returned to the original proprietors every 50 years. Shavou’ot is celebrated 50 days following Passover, and Pentecost – a derivative of the Greek word for 50 – is celebrated 50 days following Easter.  According to Judaism, there are 50 gates of wisdom, studied during the 50 days between Passover and Shavou’ot.

  1. 3.TheScroll of Ruth (Honor thy mother in-law…)

Shavou’ot spotlights the Scroll of Ruth, the first of the five Biblical scrolls, which are studied during five Jewish holidays: Ruth (Shavou’ot), Song of Songs (Passover), Ecclesiastes (Sukkot/Tabernacles), Book of Lamentations (the Ninth day of Av), Esther (Purim).

*Ruth was a Moabite Princess, who joined the Jewish people, and became the great grandmother of King David. She was a role model of loyalty to her Jewish mother in-law. Ruth is exemplary of humility, gratitude, responsibility, reliability, faith, optimism and respect of fellow human beings. Ruth stuck by her mother-in-law, Naomi, during Naomi’s roughest time, when she lost her husband, Elimelech (a President of the Tribe of Judah), two sons and property.

*The stature of Ruth reflects the centrality of Biblical women: the four Matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel; Miriam and Yocheved, the older sister and wife of Moses; Deborah the Prophetess, Judge and military leader; Hannah, the mother of Samuel the Prophet; Queen Esther and Yael, who delivered the Jewish people from potential oblivion; etc.

The Scroll of Ruth took place in the Judean Desert (in Judea and Samaria), the cradle of Jewish history, religion, culture, language and ethnicity.

  1. The Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkey Avot in Hebrew)

It is customary to study – from Passover through Shavou’ot – the six brief chapters of The Ethics of the Fathers, one of the 63 tractates of the Mishnah (the Oral Torah) – a compilation of common-sense values, ethical and moral teachings, which underline key inter-personal relationships. For example:

“Who is respected? He who respects other persons!”
“Who is a wise person? He who learns from all other persons!”
“Who is wealthy? He who is satisfied with his own share!”
“Who is a hero? He who controls his urge!”
“Talk sparsely and walk plenty;”
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
“Don’t be consumed with the flask, but with its content.”
“Conditional love is tenuous; unconditional love is eternal.”
“Treat every person politely.”
“Jealousy, lust and the obsession with fame warp one’s mind.”

  1. Jubilee/Constitution. Shavou’ot has seven names: The holiday of the Jubilee; the holiday of the harvest; the holiday of the giving of the Torah; Shavou’ot; the holiday of offerings; the Rally and the Assembly (Constitution).

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June 10, 2024 | Comments »

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