pentecost

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Counting Weeks and Days

There is a Biblical Commandment to count the days between the Passover and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks (a.k.a. Pentecost). We start counting on the second day of Passover (the first day of the barley harvest in the land of Israel, when the wave-offering of the omer, i.e., “sheaf,” of ripe barley was made in the Jerusalem Temple) and finish on the eve of Shavuot—the day when two loaves of bread made of wheat were offered at the Temple. There are exactly seven weeks (forty-nine days) between these two holidays; we are commanded to count the weeks and the days. These forty-nine days are called days of Sefirat HaOmer (the ays of “counting the Omer”) or simple days of Sefirah. This commandment is given in the following verses of the Torah: And ye shall count [...]

Shavuot and Three States of Consciousness

Shavuot (a.k.a. the Feast of Weeks, or “Pentecost”) is the only Jewish holiday that has no fixed day in a calendar – it is always the 50th day from the beginning of counting of the Omer—Sefirot HaOmer. What is so special about the number and what is its connection to Shavuot? Shavuot is not only the culmination of the counting of the sefirah, but it is a culmination of the process of maturation of our consciousness. On Shavuot, it is customary to read the Book of Ruth (Megilat Rut). The story begins with Lot and his daughters running away from Sodom and hiding in a mountain cave. Seeing the destruction of Sodom, the daughters of Lot suspected that God in his fury destroyed the whole of humanity and they were the only people [...]

613 Degrees of Freedom

Passover has ended.  All Jews hastily remove their Passover dishes into special cabinets or the attic until next Passover.  After an eight-day break, home becomes filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread.  Passover leaves us with the pleasant taste of burnt matzot, memories of the Seder spent with family, and stories of the Exodus.  But did Passover really end? In the Mishnah (the precursor of Talmud), the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) is called “Atzeret.”  This word is familiar to us from Shemini Atzeret—the holiday that follows immediately after the seven days of Sukkot, often simply viewed as the last day (or, in Diaspora, the last two days) of Sukkot.  Either way, Shemini Atzeret is the conclusion of the festival of Sukkot.  By designating Shavuot as Atzeret, the Mishnah seems to imply that it is [...]

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