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Also known as the Feast of Weeks, it falls on the sixth day of Sivan, just seven weeks after Passover. The three days before Shavuot are called the “Three Days of Limitation” or “Preparation,” for the people of Israel had to purify themselves for a period of three days in order to be ready to receive the Law from Mount Sinai. One of the pilgrimage festivals, Shavuot is both Hag ha-Bikkurim (Holiday of the First Fruits) and Zeman Motan Toratenu (The Time of the Giving of Our Torah.) In biblical times, offerings of the first fruits of tree and field were brought to the Temple. Today, this aspect of the holiday is observed by decorating the synagogue with green boughs. In Israel, Shavuot is marked by the ceremonial offering of the first fruits to the Jewish National Fund, which hold the land in trust for the Jewish people. Because the Rabbis calculated that the Jews had received the Torah at Sinai on Shavout, it was considered appropriate for children to begin their Hebrew studies on this day. Tikkun Shavuot, a collection of passages from the Bible and other sacred books, is read on Shavout night, while the biblical Book of Ruth is read after the morning service.

Tradition has it that David was born and died on Shavuot. It is therefore customary to read Psalms on the second evening of Shavuot. In Jerusalem, many Jews make a pilgrimage to Mount Zion, on which, according to tradition, King David was buried. In some communities, Jews light 150 candles in the synagogue, the numbers of chapters in the Book of Psalms attributed to David. The custom is to prepare and eat dairy dishes on Shavuot. In recent times, Reform synagogues, as well as some Conservative and Orthodox congregations, have designated the day for the ceremony of confirmation for children past Bar Mitzvah age. The Shavuot service also includes the singing of a poem called Akdamut. This poem written in Aramaic, deals with the grandeur of God, the greatness of His deeds, and the rewards that await the righteous in the world to come. Written in the 11th century, Akdamut has a mystical theme, for which an inspiring melody has been composed.

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