THE CUSTOMS OF SHAVUOS The Book of Ruth In many synagogues the book of Ruth is read on the second day of Shavuot. There are several reasons for this custom: A) Shavuot is the birthday and yahrtzeit (day of passing) of King David, and the book of Ruth records his ancestry. Ruth and her husband Boaz were King David's great-grandparents. B) The scenes of harvesting, described in the book of Ruth are appropriate to the Festival of Harvest. C) Ruth was a sincere convert who embraced Judaism with all her heart. On Shavuot all Jews were converts having accepted the Torah and all of its precepts. Adorning the Home with Greenery & Flowers It is customary on Shavuot to adorn the home and synagogue with fruits, flowers and greens. The reason is that in the time of the Temple, the first fruits of harvest were given on Shavuot. As well, our Sages related that although Mount Sinai was situated in a desert, when the Torah was given the mountain bloomed and sprouted flowers. Eating Dairy Foods It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. There are a number of reasons for this custom: With the giving of the Torah the Jews now became obligated to observe the laws of Kashruth. As the Torah was given on Shabbat no cattle could be slaughtered nor could utensils be koshered, and thus on that day they ate dairy. Another reason is that the Torah is likened to milk. The Hebrew word for milk is chalav. When the numerical value of each of the letters in the word chalav are added together - 8; 30; 2 - the total is forty. Forty is the number of days Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah. Learning on Shavuot night On the first night of Shavuot (this year Tuesday, June 12, 2005), Jews throughout the world observe the centuries-old custom of conducting an all-night vigil dedicated to Torah learning. One explanation for this tradition is that the Jewish people did not rise early on the day G-d gave the Torah, and that it was necessary for G-d Himself to awaken them. To compensate for their behavior, Jews have accepted upon themselves the custom of remaining awake all night.

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