The day marks the anniversary of God giving the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. But it also has three other names that shed light on Israeli customs and popular agricultural events this time of the year.
The most commonly-used name, Shavuot, or Festival of Weeks, refers to the seven weeks that transpired between the exodus from Egypt and the divine revelation at Sinai.
The Festival of Reaping refers to offerings of new grain that were brought to the Temple during the holiday. The day is also known as the Festival of First Offerings because farmers would bring their first fruits to the Temple. Its fourth name is the Festival of Atzeret, or Assembly, because the entire Jewish nation gathered at Sinai.
Agricultural events for families are common in Israel during this time. Tourists may visit a farm and sample local produce while children get to milk a cow, make arts and crafts and go to a petting zoo.
There is a widespread custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot, so Israeli cheeses and their cowless varieties are also in the spotlight.
The holiday is also associated with King David because he died on Shavuot, and also because the Book of Ruth — which describes his ancestry — is read in synagogues.
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