Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)



What is the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)?

In Judaism, The Feast of Weeks or Shavout (Hebrew label) or Pentecost (Greek label) is the name given to the festival, which occurred fifty days after the offering of the barley sheaf during the Passover feast (see Leviticus 13:16).

The Feast of the Fiftieth Day has been a many-sided one, and as a consequence has been called by many names. In the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament it is called the "Feast of Harvest" (Exodus 12:16) and the "Feast of Weeks" (Deuteronomy 16:10), also the "Day of the First-Fruits" (Numbers 27:26).

In the later literature it was called also the "closing festival" (Haggai 2:4). It is called, too, the "closing season of the Passover" to distinguish it from the seventh day of Passover and from the closing day of the Feast of Tabernacles, i.e., the end of the fruit harvest (Leviticus 23:36, Numbers 29:35, and Deuteronomy 16:8).




Feast of Weeks and the harvest

In Palestine, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks and was a season of gladness (Deuteronomy 16:9). It began with the harvesting of the barley during the Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Pentecost, the wheat being the last cereal to ripen. Pentecost was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest, just as the eighth day of Tabernacles was the concluding festival of the fruit harvest.

The Feast of Weeks is the second of the three festivals to be celebrated by the altar dance of all males at the sanctuary. They are to bring to the sanctuary "the first-fruits of wheat harvest," "the first-fruits of thy labors which thou hast sown in the field." These are not offerings definitely prescribed for the community; "but with a tribute of a free-will offering of thine hand . . . shalt thou [the individual] rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou and thy son and thy daughter, . . . the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow" (Deuteronomy 16:9-12).

However, there is a regularly appointed first-fruit offering which the whole community must bring. It consists of two first-fruit loaves ("leḥem ha-bikkurim") of new meal, of two-tenths of an ephah, baked with leaven. The loaves were to be waved; hence the name "wave-loaves". Furthermore, various animal sacrifices were enjoined, and no work was permitted. In Numumbers 27:26-31, the main pentecostal offering is one of new meal. There is also a list of grain and animal offerings differing somewhat from that in Leviticus 23:15-22. These offerings are to be made in addition to the fixed daily offering.

Its mention in rabbinical literature

The festival is known in Mishnah and Talmud as "'Aẓeret". "'Aẓeret" is usually translated a "solemn assembly," meaning the congregation at the pilgrimage festivals.

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Sources
  1. "Jewish Encyclopedia" in the public domain