Shavu'ot is the Hebrew word for "weeks." This is the celebration called the
Reading: Leviticus 23:1-2, 4-11, 15-17, 21
Two loaves with leaven - this is the only time that leaven, a type of sin in both Old & New Testaments, is allowed, much less commanded as an offering toHaShem. Why two loaves? The Rabbis have several explanations for this, as they do for most everything. One explanation is that out of two million who left Egypt at Passover, a great mixed multitude, only two lived to enter into the Land of Promise. Hoshea, whom Moses renamed Yehoshua (G-d is my salvation) Joshua, son of Nun, a good Jewish boy, from the tribe of Ephraim, and this fellow named Caleb, from the tribe of Judah... Another good Jewish boy? No, not really. Let’s do a little Bible study:
On that day the L-rd made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates--the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites." (Genesis 15:18-21)
In Numbers 13, Moses selected the twelve spies who would go spy out the land that G-d had promised them. In verse 6, we read: "from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;"
Later, Moses declared who would enter the Land: Numbers 14:30 says: "Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun."
With more detail, he tells why, and finally gives us an important insight into the nature of Caleb. Numbers 32:11-12 "Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the L-rd wholeheartedly."
The Kenizzites were of the people from whom the land was taken, according to G-d’s promise to Abraham. So Caleb, or his father, was a convert to Judaism, not a native born at all. He was counted among the tribes of Israel, yet he was a righteous Gentile...a Ger Tzaddik.
So, we wave two loaves, made with leaven, to represent Joshua and Caleb, the two who entered into the Promise of G-d; they represent the Body of Messiah, made of two parts: Jew and Gentile, both with sin, but, in Messiah, counted among the tribe of Judah!
Reading Psalm 67 is a tradition at Shavu’ot because it deals with harvest, and because it has seven verses and 49 words in Hebrew, as Shavu’ot comes at the end of seven Sabbaths, after 49 days from the First Fruit celebration at the Passover. It is appropriate, too, because it speaks of redemption, not only of Israel, but of the Gentiles.
Reading: Psalm 67
[Shofar is blown one long blast with increasing intensity.]
We’ve heard the Word of the L-rd from Leviticus 23 regarding the Feast of Weeks, but it is also commanded in Deuteronomy, which we will read later, and in Exodus 34:22-32, we read these excerpts:
"Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the FirstFruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign L-rd, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the L-rd your God...
"Bring the best of the FirstFruits of your soil to the house of the L-rd your God... Then the L-rd said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." Moses was there with the L-rd forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant-- the Ten Commandments. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the L-rd...
Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the L-rd had given him on Mount Sinai."
When we spend time with the L-rd, we, too, are changed. Tonight, we celebrate the commemoration of this historic and prophetic time when G-d gave His instruction to His people, and when, some 1500 years later He gave us His Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. His Word is truth.
In ancient times, the annual Feast of the L-rd were of agricultural significance. They were times of bringing offerings to the High Priest, for thanking G-d for His provision, and of seeking G-d for a bountiful harvest.
After the destruction of the Temple, the character of the Feasts changed somewhat. No longer would offerings be made by the High Priest. And, as the economy of the Land changed, the agricultural application became of less importance.
The Rabbis reckoned that it was on this day of Shavu’ot that Israel came to Mt. Sinai and received the Torah, G-d’s loving instruction. So it is that today, we celebrate Zeman Matan Torahteinu, the moment of the giving of our Torah. Why is it not called the Day of Receiving the Torah ? Because, although the Loving Instruction of G-d was given once and for all, it is for the people of G-d to receive it each and every day.
So it is fitting that tonight, in gatherings around the world, we gather to read the decalogue, or the Ten Words of G-d’s commandments.
Reading: Exodus 20: 1-17
Verse 18 continues, "When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance."
Notice that the text says that the people saw the thunder. The Rabbis teach that the voice of G-d was that thundering, and that the very sound waves had form; the form of Or Kudos, Holy Fire. They teach that at each of the ten Words, the Fire came down the mountain, and it rested upon each member of the Israelites, asking "Will you accept this Word as your own?" As the last agreed, the Fire swept back to the mountain top, where it engraved itself upon the tablets of stone.
This is just one of the connections between the Shavu’ot of Mt. Sinai and theShavu’ot of Mt. Zion. In Jerusalem, 120 were gathered together, in one place and in one accord. So, too was Israel gathered as one, as we see in Exodus 19:2-8.
"After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the L-rd called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the L-rd had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, "Na’aseh v’nishmah," "We will do and we will understand, everything the L-rd has said."" First we will do, then we will understand.
Verse 2 says, "Israel camped before the L-rd." The word for camp, in Hebrew is chanah, from the same root as the word chupah or marriage canopy. The word used here, chanah is singular, while Israel is plural; From this we see that Israel had become one. In Acts 2, we are told that those gathered were in one accord, as well.
In Exodus 19:17, we see that Moses brought all of Israel out of the camp to meet G-d. They stood in the nether part of the mountain. In Hebrew, this word nether means "under," so Israel stood under the mountain as a bride stands under the chupah to meet her groom.
So, we see the theme of a wedding within the lessons of Shavu’ot; and the lesson is taught often in detail. G-d betrothed Himself to Israel at Sinai. There, He sent His ketubah, His written wedding contract to His bride by the hand of one of two required witnesses. But, when Moses saw the adulterous bride in the arms of her lover, the golden calf, as the representative of the Groom, he took it upon himself to break the ketubah so that the Groom would not be defiled.
In the Brit Hadashah, we see this very thing reenacted as Maryiam, the betrothed of Yacov is found with child. Yacov determines to break theketubah until, by the Spirit of G-d, he is instructed by an angel that the child was, in fact, an offspring of the Holy One. So, at Mt. Zion, G-d is betrothed to His Church, as the Ruach HaKodesh is sent to lead the Bride into all truth; so that she may make herself ready for His coming to take her away to live with Him forever as His beloved.
Another theme, perhaps the main theme of this Feast is that of New Revelation. It was at the Red Sea that G-d redeemed Israel; and it is our moment of acceptance that we are set free from the bondage of sin. But Israel experienced a new revelation of G-d’s character, of G-d’s power, at Sinai. So we, too, experience power from on high, when we allow the Holy Fire of G-d to consume all of the flesh and the world’s ways, and allow the Holy Spirit of G-d to infill us and direct us into all truth, and empower us to be His witnesses every day of our lives.
So it is for us, as believers in the One Who is the Word of G-d, become flesh, to celebrate His gift of the power of the Holy Spirit, each and every day of our lives in Him. For it was on this day, some 2000 years ago that the writer of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles records, "When the day of Pentecosthad fully come..."
Reading: Acts 2:1-47
At Mt. Sinai, the Torah was given, written on tablets of stone. At Mt. Zion, G-d’s Holy Spirit was poured out upon all flesh, so that we might, as the Master, fulfill the entire Torah and Prophets. To attempt to please G-d with our obedience in our own strength, will kill us. Just as 3000 were killed because of their choices to worship as they pleased. But, when the Spirit of G-d empowers us, we may walk in newness of life, in Him; be led in all truth; be His witness; and in His Spirit, we find life.
Another matter that is traditional at the Feast of Weeks is the reading of the scroll of Ruth. Why is this read? Again, we hear many reasons. One is that Ruth is the grandmother of King David, whose birthday and death are said to have occurred on Shavu’ot. The megillah (scroll) of Ruth is a story that is set during the time of the wheat harvest, of a Moabite woman who would not forsake her commitment to the people of G-d.
"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth...remember that at that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without G-d in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Messiah."
Baruch HaShem! G-d has made a way, even for the stranger; even for the ones without hope. That way is open for Jews & for Gentiles, for slaves, and for free. That way is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIGHT.
One of the most exciting traditions of Shavu’ot: Tikkun Leil Shavu’ot is the practice of staying up all night to study the Torah. That is why those 120 were gathered in one place, in one accord. It was to celebrate and to study the Torah of G-d. It was to those faithful followers of Yeshua and of His Father that G-d poured out His Spirit. They had not rejected the Law, as they rested in His provision of grace. They were fully committed, as was David, as was Yeshua, as were all of the early Church Saints, to the fulfillment and keeping of G-d’s commandments.
The final reading that commands our observance of Shavu’ot is found in Deuteronomy 16:9-12, 16.
"Do not come before the L-rd empty handed." When we hear the Word of the L-rd, we are given an opportunity to participate in its continued ministry.