This blogpost series is called Holidays and Holy Days to inform our OSU community about significant religious and spiritual observances.  If you know of a significant holiday or holy day coming up, please communicate the information to Hannah Pynn in the Dean of Student Life office.

May 14-16th, 2013 is the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

The Torah

Historical Context

Shavuot is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the day when God gave Moses the Torah, a summary of God’s laws, on Mount Sinai. The word “Shavuot” means weeks. The festival of Shavuot marks the completion of a 7-week period between Passover and Shavuot. The Torah commands that Jews count forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot. The last day of Passover, a sacrifice containing an “omer”-measure of barley, was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem. The day before Shavuot, an offering of wheat is to be brought to the Temple. An “omer” is equal to about 3.64 litres. In antiquity, grain harvest lasted seven weeks. Barley was harvested during Passover and the harvesting of wheat began during Shavuot.

Shavuot is celebrated in Israel for one day, but is celebrated for disapora (Jews not living in Israel) for two days.

Mood and Common Greetings

Mood – Festive, merriment that celebrates the harvest and God’s provision

Common Greeting – “Chag Sameach!” which means Happy Holiday!

Happy Shavuot!









Modern Significance

Shavuot, unlike other Jewish holidays, does not have commandments in the Torah. The traditions of Shavuot highlight the importance of tradition for the preservation of Jewish religious observance. Shavuot remembers that is a connection between Judaism, agriculture, and healthy communities.
Dairy foods are popular during Shavuot, which are symbolic for several reasons:
  • When they received the law of the Torah and had to follow kosher, Jews chose to eat dairy foods as they transitioned into the new laws
  • The Torah is compared to milk by King Solomon, “Like honey and milk, it lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11)
  • The Hebrew name of Mount Sinai is etymologically similar to the Hebrew word for cheese
 Cheese Blintz


  1. Eating dairy foods – blintz, cheesecake, cheese-filled pancakes, basically any kind of amazing cheesy, dairy food you can think of
  2. One night meal and day meal
  3. Public readings of the book of Ruth – because the events of Ruth happen during harvest time
  4. Greenery decorates homes and synagogues
  5. All-night Torah study, called Tikkun Leil Shavuot (Hebrew: תקון ליל שבועות – this represents the night the Torah was given to Moses, Israelites overslept and Moses had to wake them because God was waiting on the mountaintop
  6. Confirmation ceremonies for students aged 16-18 who are completing their religious studies

Additional Resources

OSU Religious Accommodation Policy

It is the policy of the Oregon University System and Oregon State University that no one shall be subject to discrimination based on age, disability, national origin, race, color, veteran status, marital status, religion, sex or sexual orientation.

With regards to religion, this policy prohibits the University, and its employees while at work or representing OSU, from taking action that promotes religion or promotes one particular religion over another. The University may not create an atmosphere which in anyway suggests it favors one religion over another, or religion over non-religion. As a public university, it is equally important not to inhibit voluntary religious expression. The University’s obligation is to balance these two elements — to refrain from promoting and at the same time to refrain from inhibiting. This policy is premised on respect for each individual’s right to make personal choices regarding the nature, if any, of his or her religious beliefs and practices.

This policy does not preclude a faculty member or employee from being an advisor to a recognized student organization which may have a religious affiliation.



Any student or employee who feels he or she is being treated inappropriately based on religion is encouraged to contact the Office of Equity and Inclusion, 526 Kerr Administration Building, (541-737-3556).

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