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Some Reflections on the Feast of Shavuot

Written by Rabbi Michael Weygant on . Posted in Shavuot

For those of us who live in central Oklahoma. We have been enjoying a pleasant and colorful springtime.

As temperatures have warmed and adequate rains have fallen we have watched the native redbud trees bloom, spring flowers suddenly appear and abundant stalks of winter wheat begin to sprout forth in preparation of harvest. Springtime also brings to our attention within the Messianic Jewish community, two of the three major feasts of the LORD, namely Pesach and Shavuot.1 And we, as participants in a Messianic Jewish congregation, greatly enjoy these ancient Biblical ce1ebration and the deep meanings of these two significant holy feast days of the LORD. Not surprisingly, Pesach and Shavuot are inextricably linked with one another according to the Scriptures.

The Torah states that Shavuot is to be observed fifty days after Pesach. The Pharisees and the Sadducees of the first century differed in their respective approach to Shavuot. Their difference was centered upon exactly when to begin and when to complete the actual sefirah, or counting of the omer, or sheaf the Torah mentions.2 Still there was no debate between the Pharisees and the Sadducees concerning the obligatory religious nature of Shavuot and its great importance. Like the other two pilgrimage feasts of Torah, Shavuot was apparently widely observed by the Jewish people of the first century. Many would make the Divinely required pilgrimage to the capital of Israel, Jerusalem, for the observance of Shavuot. These religious pilgrims did not arrive in Jerusalem empty-handed; they brought with them a freewill, firstfruits offering for the Temple in proportion to the amount of blessing they had received from the LORD. The fact that these spiritual pilgrims from much of the then known world, including proselytes, came to celebrate and to freely give to the LORD during the feast of Shavuot is adequately attested to in the New Covenant.3

Ancient commemoration of Shavuot in the Temple era involved two major and special events: the offering of wheat and the offering of firstfruits. Torah explains: "you shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering".4 This unique offering was presented in conjunction with the prescribed peace and burnt offerings and was subsequently waved before the LORD.5 It is noteworthy that this was the only tune that an offering made of flour was with leaven or hametz.

As we begin to apply these concepts to New Covenant fulfillment we realize the great depth of truth that is revealed. Passover involved the redemption by the blood of the lamb of the covenant people of GOD and was linked by GOD’s decree in Torah to the eventual offering of the firstfruits and the wave offering of the two loaves of bread. Some have found a clear reference for the two loaves of the wave offering in the words of Ray Shaul (Paul the apostle) as written in the epistle to the Ephesians and so obviously replete with allusions to Temple rites:

"Now in Messiah Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah Yeshua. For He Himself is our peace, who made both one... that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace... for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father..."6

It is self-evident, though, that the event of Scripture unmistakably linked to the first century celebration of Shavuot is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.7 From this beginning point occurring as it does after the resurrection from the dead of Yeshua the Messiah, His early Jewish followers were empowered from on high to fulfill His great commission to go into all the world and to preach the Good News, "to the Jewish people first and also to the nations". (Romans 1:16-17) In historical retrospect we can deduce that this first century celebration of Shavuot, amply highlighted by the miraculous display of the power of GOD and the accompanying repentance and Messianic faith of many in Israel, marks a true change in the history of mankind. In our day we are seeing a tremendous revival or harvest springing forth among our Jewish people as individuals embrace the call to repentance and place their faith in the sacrificial atonement witnessed to by the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. Messianic Jewish congregations have been springing up all over the world. These vibrant congregations are genuine evidence of the ‘two loaves’ redeemed from the leaven of sin being waved as one before the LORD: Jewish and non-Jewish people united by the Holy Spirit in New Covenant love for GOD and mutually found redemption from sin. As one modern rabbi has noted, "Covenant rests on the reaching out of GOD and the acceptance by man."8 Biblically, Shavuot requires us to give our first and best to GOD even as we remember that He has extended to all in His loving mercy His best, by sending us His Son, our Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth. GOD has reached out to all of us; what He awaits is our individual acceptance by faith of so great and generous a gift; the gift of His uniquely begotten Son!

Hag Sameach and may you be filled with the love of Messiah this Shavuot!

Endnotes:

  1. Pesach is the Hebrew name of Passover. Shavuot is the Hebrew name of the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. The third major feast is called Sukkot in the Hebrew language or Tabernacles in English. Unlike Pesach and Shavuot, it is an autumnal feast. All three of these pilgrimage feasts are detailed within the books of the Torah. (See Exodus 23:14-17, Deuteronomy 16:16)
  2. Dueteronomy 16:9.
  3. The amazing listing of national backgrounds recorded in Acts 2 9 11 and the mentioning of the inclusion of proselytes to Judaism vinifies the significance of Shavuot to the general Jewish community of that time.
  4. Leviticus 43: 17
  5. Leviticus 23:18-20
  6. Excerpted from Ephesians 2:11-18
  7. For full background of this outpouring, read chapter two of the book of Acts in the New Covenant. Although modern observance of Shavuot includes a commemoration of the giving of Torah (Hebrew; matan ha torah), Rabbi Leo Tepp correctly points out the following: "Shavuot is nowhere in Torah designated as the Feast of Revelation.’ He further opines, "However, a little arithmetic based on Scripture (Exodus 19), reveals that the fiftieth day after the Exodus was the moment when GOD descended to Mount Sinai." The Complete Book of Jewish Observance, Behrman House, page 198. One could conclude, therefore, that although the giving of the Torah is not earmarked as a point of celebration for Shavuot, it seems befitting as also the reading of the book of Ruth with its spring harvest theme.
  8. Rabbi Leo Tepp, The Complete Book of Jewish Observance, Behrman House, page 200. Emphasis with italics on the word and is part of the original quote.