Where Did Pentecost Come From?

Image: NJOP

Consider these words from the first reading for Pentecost Sunday:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
It's easy for Christians to misunderstand what's meant here by the fulfillment "for the time for Pentecost."  The disciples of Jesus were in Jerusalem where they had gone at Jesus' instruction (Acts 1:4-5) to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jerusalem was mobbed because faithful Jews had come there to celebrate Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks which falls 50 days after Passover. 

What is Shavuot?  The helpful site Judaism 101 tells us:
Shavu'ot, the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Passover and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and is known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah). 
The period from Passover to Shavu'ot is a time of great anticipation. We count each of the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavu'ot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name of the festival. See The Counting of the Omer. The counting reminds us of the important connection between Passover and Shavu'ot: Passover freed us physically from bondage, but the giving of the Torah on Shavu'ot redeemed us spiritually from our bondage to idolatry and immorality. Shavu'ot is also known as Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day; however, Shavu'ot has no particular similarity to the Christian holiday of Pentecost, which occurs 50 days after their Spring holiday.

The date for Shavout is determined by the date of Passover each year, just as the date of Pentecost is determined by the date of Easter each year.  Perhaps you remember that this year (2022) Passover and Easter occurred back to back.  So, in 2022, the celebration of Shavuot begins this weekend, Saturday, June 4, at sundown, with our Pentecost falling on Sunday, June 5.

Over at To Bend Light my good cyber-friend, Alden Solovy, offers us a collection of prayers and stories for Shavuot.  And here you'll find his weekly prayers for Counting of the Omer for the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot.

I'm pleased to share with you here one of Alden's prayers for Shavuot:

For the Joy of Learning

G-d, we give thanks for the joy of learning,
For the love of teaching and being taught,
For the gift that connects us to You,
To each other
And to Your Divine word.
Your wisdom is near to us,
In our hearts and in our mouths,
In our hands and in our lives,
So that we may teach it to each other
With humility and love.
Hear our prayer for those who teach and learn,
Bringing new light to Your people Israel.
Make the moments together a celebration.
Let heaven pour wisdom and strength through them
So that they overflow with enthusiasm and wonder
Drawing others into Your service.
So that when we witness the love of learning
Our souls turn back to You for wisdom.
Together, we offer this journey back to heaven,
And rejoice.

© 2011 Alden Solovy and To Bend Light, All rights reserved.

Pentecost 2011 Special

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