In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible! Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available now!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.
Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“On the day of the first fruits, your Feast of Weeks, when you bring an offering of new grain to God, you shall observe a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations.” (Numbers 28:26)
וביום הבכורים בהקריבכם מנחה חדשה ליהוה בשבעתיכם מקרא קדש יהיה לכם כל מלאכת עבדה לא תעשו.
“You shall count off seven weeks; start to count the seven weeks when the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall observe the Feast of Weeks for your God, offering your freewill contribution as your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 16:9-10)
שבעה שבעת תספר לך מהחל חרמש בקמה תחל לספר שבעה שבעות. ועשית חג שבעות ליהוה אלהיך מסת נדבת ידך אשר תתן כאשר יברכך יהוה אלהיך.
Shavuot, Hebrew for “weeks,” is the name of one of the three pilgrimage festivals during which Jews in ancient Israel would travel to Jerusalem. Known as Pentecost in Greek, it is the only Jewish holiday whose date is not explicitly stated in the Bible. Instead, the Bible commands the people of Israel to count seven weeks from the second day of Passover, and the day after that, the 50th day, is the holiday of Shavuot. On Shavuot, which falls on the 6th day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, God gave the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel.
The 49 days between Passover and Shavuot are counted in a daily ritual in anticipation of the great day when God gave the Bible to the people of Israel. Shavuot is traditionally celebrated by staying up all night long and studying the Bible and other holy texts until the sun rises the next morning.
Shavuot also means “oaths,” for when God gave the Torah to the people of Israel He pledged His devotion to them, and they in turn committed to follow His commandments. Similarly, Be’er Sheva, a southern Israeli city, means “Well of Oaths,” for it was there that Abraham and King Abiimelech made vows of peace after quarreling over the rightful ownership of wells in that area.
The word shavuot is derived from the Hebrew word sheva, meaning “seven,” the number of days in a week. Unlike the length of a year and the lunar month, which are based on the sun and the moon, there is nothing natural about the length of a week. The seven days of the week are rooted in the Biblical account of creation which has spread to all human cultures throughout the world.