5 Customs of Shavuot and What Each Represents

For many of you, the end of Passover leads you to look forward to Shavuot, known as the Festival of Weeks. For others, you may be wondering…

  • What is Shavuot?  
  • Why do we celebrate Shavuot?
  • What is the biblical significance behind Shavuot and the customs used to celebrate it?

Whether this year is your first time celebrating this festival or you have celebrated it for years, our hope is that you will gain a greater understanding of Shavuot and how it connects you to your heritage through God’s covenant.

Shavuot | What Is It and Why Do We Celebrate It?

Shavuot—the Hebrew word for weeks—is commonly referred to as the Festival of Weeks. The celebration of Shavuot was commanded by God at the conclusion of the counting of the Omer, a 7-week period that falls after Passover. 

“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.”

—Deuteronomy 16:9-10

Why does God want you to celebrate Him at the onset of firstfruits? 

The story of Cain and Abel shines a light on this… 

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

—Genesis 4:7

This story can serve as a reminder that when your heart is directed to God’s Kingdom with your firstfruits, then you are in alignment with Him. Keep your sight on God and His kingdom… First! 

If not, we become more susceptible to the enemy and his tactics of distractions.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

—Matthew 6:33 (emphasis added)

He wants you to reap the blessings of a freewill offering from your heart and hands to His Kingdom and glory. He wants a full surrender because He knows that this is what we need to walk freely in His blessings. 

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5 Customs Commonly Practiced During Shavuot…

Modern practices of Shavuot are done with symbolism and intentionality. 

  1. Three days of preparation: 

The Bible teaches that the Israelites had three days to prepare to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. To ready themselves for the momentous occasion, they were instructed to wash their clothes and to stay ritually pure.

By recalling those three days, you can spend time aligning yourself with God before Shavuot to prepare personally, as a family, and as a community to re-experience this life-changing event.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.’”

—Exodus 19:10-11 (emphasis added)
  1. The Torah night study:

The timeline suggests that the Festival of Weeks—Shavuot—and the gift of the Law fall at the same time. 

“In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai.”

—Exodus 19:1

Shavuot is the perfect time to honor and reestablish God’s Law in our hearts and minds. Customarily, a study of the Torah would start at dusk and carry on throughout the night as a remembrance of that preparation time at Mount Sinai. 

After all, the giving of the Torah was a far-reaching spiritual event that has lasted for centuries. It is the establishment of God’s covenant with His people and a foreshadowing of events to come.

“‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ …”

—Exodus 19:4-6

Notice the sequence of events laid out within this covenant…

  • Grace: God rescued His people and drew them near to Him.
  • Obedience: When there is obedience, you become a special treasure, and with that obedience, you are able to unlock the blessings that God has in store for you. 
  • Blessings: You shall be to Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Obedience may not get you rescued, but it does get you blessed!

  1. Eating dairy-based products:

Because the gift of the Law and the land that God was giving them was likened to nourishment and sweetness, it became common practice to serve foods that incorporated milk and honey during the feast. 

“He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’; and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.”

—Deuteronomy 26:9-10

It is common for cheese plates, cheesecake, and quiche to be served at Shavuot feasts.

  1. Reading the book of Ruth:

The theme of Ruth’s conversion to Judaism and her loyalty to her mother-in-law is central to this story. 

…Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.’”

—Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth is often considered to be the pioneer of all who “choose” or convert to Judaism—accepting the Torah, just as Jews accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai—and this passage traditionally has been understood as her conversion statement.

  1. The Giving of Firstfruits:

The traditional giving of firstfruits was called the mitzvah of Bikkurim. The farmer would select the first budding fruit in his fields by marking the first bud with a reed tied around it—then verbally declaring it as “first fruit” to be given to the Temple priests. This applied only to the seven species of the land of Israel: barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates, and wheat. The giving of firstfruits included the offering of two loaves of the finest wheat grain baked with leaven and offered with special fruits, grains and burnt offerings at the Temple during Shavuot. 

Today, this custom of giving of firstfruits at Shavuot is still carried out after the 50 days of the Omer, by giving to the place of worship a monetary offering to the Lord. Giving the offering as the symbol of the first of God’s blessings—giving with thankfulness of the ‘finest firsts’ of what God has given to us; declaring the goodness of God for the abundance of His blessings toward us.

“Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves… of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord.”

─Leviticus 23:16-17

The Festival of Shavuot is a time to thank God for the bounty of the harvest in our lives with the choicest of our firstfruits. It was a celebration of Torah when God gave His instruction that would continue to bless us as we continue to align with His Word and love His law.

Woman in a white dress rejoicing in a field during sunrise.

Shavuot | Activate Your Faith and Heritage…

Let Shavuot inspire you to reclaim your forgotten heritage today. Christians often separate their faith from their Jewish roots. When this is the case, the stakes are high! God’s direction was for us to follow this statute forever.

“…It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

—Leviticus 23:21

God has a promise and purpose in store just for you. Dive deeper into His truth to activate those promises. Your inheritance in Christ is not lost; it just needs to be reclaimed! Learn how to start walking in the fullness of your salvation today!