The Double Significance of Shavuot

On Shavuot we are celebrating two things:

  1. The receiving of the Torah on Har Sinai
  2. The bringing of the Bikkurim (first fruits) to Jerusalem, appreciating the Land of Israel


The desert and the blooming Land of Israel are actually total opposites.


The desert represents exile, dryness and a break from civilization.


Israel and its fruits remind us of redemption, growth, abundance.


Why do we celebrate both the giving of the Torah in the desert and the bringing of the Bikurim in the Land of Israel?


Rabbi Rami Barchihu answers that in order to immerse ourselves in the Torah we have to put our whole being into Torah study and separate ourselves from civilization. However, he cautions, this should only be done for  a limited amount of time as Torah is supposed to be part of our every day lives and Torah study is supposed to lead to action- Mitzvah observance. It therefore doesn’t make sense to only study Torah as that will just keep us in the wilderness, we must act on what we have studied- come to Israel and bring the Bikurim.


What is interesting is to see the difference between how Shavuot is celebrated in Israel and how it is celebrated outside of Israel.


Outside of Israel it is celebrated as Chag Matan Torah, the holiday of the giving of the Torah with many communities studying Torah all night long. It is generally not observed by non-observant and unaffiliated Jews. Many Jews outside of Israel have never even heard of Shavuot.


In Israel, no matter what background Israelis are coming from, they all are aware of Shavuot and celebrate it in some way. On the Kibbutzim it is looked at as an agricultural holiday with tractor parades and the custom of eating milk products is seen in every supermarket. The religious community has the custom of staying up all night to study Torah with the added bonus of being able to walk to the Kotel at sunrise. Every Israeli is aware of Shavuot as it is a day off from work!


We hope and pray that soon all Jews will be able to observe Shavuot as fully as possible in the Land of Israel with the honor of bringing our first fruits to the Beit HaMikdash.