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Shavuot

The Torah was a precious treasure that was hidden for 974 generations before the creation of the world. When Haqqadosh Barukh Hu (the Holy One Blessed Be He) decided to create the world, the Torah was its blueprint. It was then given to us on the understanding that we would keep every aspect of it. The existence of the Jewish religion and nation, as well as the freedom of its people,depends on it being dutifully and meticulously followed.

On Pesah we celebrate the Children of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. But though they were delivered out of the house of bondage, they were as yet not a free nation.

It is written in the Torah “And the writing was that of G-d’s engraved (Haruth) upon the Tablets of Stone” (Exodus c32, v16). In Pirqei Aboth (Ethics of the Fathers) it is stated in connection with the above phrase: “Read not ‘engraved’ (Haruth) but ‘freedom’ (Heruth), for the only free man is one who occupies himself with the study of the Torah.”

In fact, the reason the Children of Irael merited to be delivered from Egypt was to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai. At that time they would truly shake off the yoke of slavery and replace it with one of Torah thus becoming a truly free nation.

On Shabu’oth we celebrate the receiving of the Torah. In addition, it is also the Festival of the Reaping of the wheat and of the Gift-Offering.

Since we are commanded to count seven full weeks between the onset of Pesah and the arrival of Shabu’oth, Qiddush on the first night must be made after Layla Wadday (after the stars come out). The second night (for those who live outside the Land of Israel) does not require Layla Wadday and in some cases it is even preferable to start early. The Berakhah (blessing) of Sheheheyanu is recited on both nights.

After the Se’uddah (festive meal) the men stay up all night reading the prescibed Seder Hallimmud (order of learning) known as Hathimah. It includes portions from the entire Twenty Four Books of the Torah, Prophets and Writings (Tannakh), the 613 Miswoth, Midrash and Adra Rabba. No other studies should be substituted by Sephardeem and no Mishnah should be read on this night. Some Ashkenazi congregations have the custom to have lectures or other forms of study.

Immediately following the Seder Hallimmood, Shahrith (the morning prayer) should be prayed. Appropriately, the Torah reading on the first day includes the portion of the Ten Commandments. This is preceded by the singing of the Shbah (song of praise) Yom Yom Odeh (Every Day Will I Give Thanks).

It is written in the holy Sha’ar Hakkawwanoth, concerning the custom of Rabbenu the Ari, z”1, that after the Sefer Torah was brought out and shown he would return to his seat and remain seated till the end of the Parashah. Sepharadi have the same custom and remain seated for all Torah readings, including the Ten Commandments. The Ashkenazi custom is to stand for this portion.

Dairy foods are an essential part of the meal during the day on Shabu’oth. Many varieties are eaten by Sepharadim, including rice cooked with milk and cucumbers in Yogurt. Some of the reasons are as follows:

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for milk (Halab) is 40, which is compared to the 40 days and nights of the giving of the Torah. Another reason is that the source of milk is blood. But just as blood, which is red, becomes white when it turns into milk, so too the Torah has the power to turn sins into merits, as it says: “Eem Yihyu Hata-ekhem Kashaneem, Kashelegh Yalbeenu (If your sins are red, they will be made as white as snow)”.

Click Here for more of the Laws and Customs of Shavuot.

(Taken from the writings of Hakham Ya'aqob Menashe.)