Shavuot is a major festival.
It is the second of the three major festivals and comes exactly 50 days after Passover. It marks the giving of the Torah by G-d to the entire Jewish people on Mount Sinai 3324 years ago.
In Hebrew, the word "Shavuot" means "weeks" and stands for the seven weeks during which the Jewish people prepared themselves for the giving of the Torah. During this time they rid themselves of the scars of bondage and became a holy nation ready to stand before G-d.
THE GIVING OF THE TORAH
The giving of the Torah was far more than an historical event. It was a far-reaching spiritual event-one that touched the essence of the Jewish soul then and for all time. Our Sages have compared it to a wedding between G-d and the Jewish people. We became His special nation and He became our G-d.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SHAVUOT TODAY
Each year, Shavuot is the special time for us to reawaken and strengthen our special relationship with G-d. We can do so by rededicating ourselves to the observance and study of the Torah-our most precious heritage.
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What is Torah?
THE WRITTEN AND ORAL LAW
The Torah is composed of two parts: the written law and the oral law. The written Torah contains the Five Book of Moses, the Prophets and the Writings. Together with the written Torah, Moses was also given the oral law which explains and clarifies the written law. It was transmitted orally from generation to generation and eventually transcribed in the Talmud and Midrash.
Throughout the generations our people have studied these works, commenting upon them, clarifying their meanings, deriving practical applications of these principles and codifying the laws derived from them. Thus, a continuous chain of tradition extends throughout the generations, connecting the scholars of the present day to the revelation at Mount Sinai.
THE "BLUEPRINT" FOR CREATION
Speaking metaphorically, our Sages tell us that G-d constantly "gazes into the Torah and creates the world." The Torah is not only a practical guide for our behaviour in daily life, but also on a deeper level it is actually the "blueprint" for creation.
Everything that happens in our lives is a manifestation of G-d's wisdom, as expressed in His Torah. As such, Torah represents the very source of our vitality, and the key to the fulfilment of our deepest aspirations.
The Revelation at Mount Sinai was a tumultuous awe-inspiring experience. The entire universe, our Sages say, trembled with the piercing sound of the ram's horn. Thunder and lightning filled the skies. Then-silence. Not a bird chirped. No creature spoke. The seas did not stir. Even the angels ceased to fly, as the voice was heard: "I am the L-rd your G-d ..."
When G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, our entire people heard his voice proclaiming the Ten Commandments.
1) I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of the land ofEgypt.
2) You shall have no other gods before Me.
3) Do not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain.
4) Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.
5) Honour your father and mother.
6) Do not murder.
7) Do not commit adultery.
8) Do not steal.
9) Do not bear false witness.
10) Do not covet.
These ten commands range from the highest and most refined concept of the belief in the oneness of G-d, to the most basic laws which every society has found it necessary to enforce such as not killing and not stealing.