What is Shavuot Really About?
A wedding celebration between G-d and the Jewish People - by Rabbi Tzvi Sytner
1) I still can’t believe that I went to yeshiva with this guy… so sad.
2) Compare his theological questions and answers with anthropological ones; to me, this only highlights how narrowminded the ‘intellectualism’ of yeshivas really is, bc, honestly, who in yeshiva is actually looking for objective data on the sources of these traditions? Who is studying how they’ve evolved over time? Almost no-one, and I’m sure a great many would object to the very idea. So, instead, they wax pseudo-philosophical apologetics based on mistaken assumptions and end up with comforting but almost entirely inaccurate answers:
Elon Gilad writes in Ha’aretz:
…Shavuot has its origins in the ancient mid-summer harvest celebrations of the Canaanites, the ancient people from which Israelite society sprang during the Bronze Age. These early religions’ celebrations, in which revelers rejoiced in the harvesting of wheat, were local affairs probably celebrated in communal threshing grounds, where the wheat was separated from the chaff, and other cultic sites.
All that started to change in the 7th and 8th centuries BCE, when the Jerusalem monarchs and priesthood consolidated power, bringing formerly separate tribes under the helm of one ruler. As part of this program, they co-opted these local affairs and supplanted them by unified rites that could only be preformed in the Temple in Jerusalem. This program would create a sense of peoplehood for the people of the land and enrich the coffers of both palace and Temple.…
[D]uring the First Temple period, Shavuot was an appendage to Passover, the first of the two major agricultural holidays. Shavuot marked the end of the festival (Atzeret) of the 50-day period called the Omer, between the harvest of barley – Passover - and the harvest of wheat. Sukkot, the second agricultural holiday, involves the same pattern, in this case with a seven-day period between the start of the holiday and the Atzeret.
Since Shavuot is not a holiday in its own right, according to the Bible, we don’t actually know the exact date of the celebration, only that it comes 50 days after Passover…
It doesn’t have a set name either - it is cited as The Festival of Weeks (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10), The Festival of Reaping (Exodus 23:16) and The Day of First Fruits (Numbers 28:26).
… It was the rabbis of the first decades after the destruction of the Temple who changed the significance of Shavuot and proclaimed that Atzeret, as they called it, was the celebration of the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.
… From the 2nd century on, Shavuot began to focus on the Torah.…[F]ew traditions were assigned to Shavuot during late antiquity (after 70 CE) and the early Middle Ages. This began to change during the Middle Ages, however. This is when traditions such as the act of decorating synagogues with greenery first became associated with Shavuot [as did the eating of dairy products]…
An even later tradition to become associated with Shavuot is that of all-night Torah study sessions. The tradition started in the 16th century by Rabbi Joseph Caro [author of the Shulkhan Arukh]. Later, under the influence of the Kabbalah revolution of the Ari, these were dubbed “Tikkun Leil Shavuot,” which is what they are called to this very day.…
- Quoted from FailedMessiah