The festival of Shavuot is celebrated in commemoration of the revelation at Mount Sinai. There are a number of beautiful and interesting customs connected with the day;
- The Scroll of Ruth
Ruth is probably the most famous convert to Judaism and her story is recounted in the Scroll of Ruth. One of the main reasons given for why the Scroll of Ruth is read on the festival of Shavuot is that the revelation at Sinai was a kind of mass conversion of the Jewish people.
- Dairy Foods
The custom of eating dairy foods on Shavuot is quite an unusual one in Judaism, as a religion that views the eating of meat as an integral part of celebrating festivals. A number of reasons are provided for this custom;
- Once the Jews accepted upon themselves the Torah, they became obligated in its laws, which included the kosher dietary laws. However, since they had yet to learn the intricate laws of animal slaughter, they chose to eat dairy.
- The receiving of the Torah from G-d was a kind of rebirth of the Jewish people and we therefore celebrate this status by consuming baby food; that is to say, milk and milk products.
- The Hebrew word for milk, Chalav, has the numerical value of forty, which symbolizes the number of days that Moses was on Mount Sinai, before he descended with the Torah.
- Tikkun Leil Shavuot
According to Midrashic legends, the Jewish people were scolded for sleeping the night before they received the Torah. It is relayed that G-d had to awake them with the sound of the Shofar and thunder and lightning. Therefore, sixteenth century Kabbalists in Tzfat, Israel, created Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which contains readings from the Bible, Talmud and Kabbalah and would be read all night long as a way of repairing the mistake of the Jewish people on the eve of receiving the Torah.
Another Shavuot tradition is to decorate the Synagogue and home with greenery and flowers. According to the Midrash, Mount Sinai flowered miraculously in anticipation of the Torah’s arrival and the decorations symbolize this miracle. Additionally, according to Jewish Mysticism, G-d dulled mans’ senses as a punishment for the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden- the only sense left intact was scent. When G-d gave the Torah, He renewed the world and began repairing the breach by tugging on the sensual thread of scent, the only one that had never been severed.