In addition to being a Harvest holiday that also commemorates the
spiritual journey of Ruth, Shavuot celebrates the greatest
gift ever given to the Jewish people: the Revelation of
Torah. Shavuot commemorates the three days and nights
that the tribes of Israel were encamped at Mount Sinai
in anticipation of receiving the Word of God.
Accordingly, Shavuot places great emphahsis on learning
and study of Torah. Consistent with the "journey"
motif of the holiday - harvest and sacrifice in the
Promised Land found after Ruth's profound spiritual journey and trek through the wilderness
- the embracing
of the gift of Torah by the mulititudes in the shadow
of Sinai marks the culmination of our journey from disparate
Israelite tribes to a united Jewish people.
Moses descending Mount Sinai was much more than a climactic
event in the Jews' liberation. The instant that Moses returned
to his people and gave them the Words that were given
to him, and the massed tribes of Israel chose to
follow him in service and devotion to God, was the moment that the Jews
completed their journey to Peoplehood. After God had revealed
Himself to the Jews through His prophet Moses, only then
could the Jews reveal themselves to the world.
photograph by Frederic Brenner