Shabuoth, the Feast of First Fruits, Begins Tuesday; Story of Ruth Retold

Shabuoth, the Feast of Weeks, will be ushered in Tuesday evening and will be observed for two days by Orthodox Jewry, until sundown Thursday. Reformed Jewry observes only the first day, Wednesday.

This festival is known also under the name of Pentecost, meaning fiftieth, since it is the fiftieth day after the second day of Passover. By tradition, Pentecost is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Related to the agricultural life of the ancient Jews, it is also known as the Feast of First Fruits.

The Book of Ruth is read in synagogues because the story of the Moabite who embraced Judaism and the description of the scene of harvesting are appropriate to the festival of the law and of the harvest. Another reason for reading this story is that King David, a descendant of Ruth, died on the day of Pentecost. Akdamuth, a mystical poem, written in Aramaic, is chanted is synagogues on the first day of the festival. On the first night of Pentecost pious Jews read an abridgement of the Old Testament which occupies them until morning.

A prevailing custom is to display greens on the floors and otherwise decorate the home and synagogue with plants, flowers, and even with trees. A popular custom on Pentecost is to eat dairy foods and cheese-cakes in honor of the law, which are likened to “milk and honey”.

The period between Passover and Pentecost is termed by the mystic work of the Zohar as the “courting days of the bridegroom Israel with the bride Torah.”

Shabuoth has been chosen by the modern American synagogue as the most appropriate occasion for the ceremonial of confirmation.

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