In Judaism there are many holidays known as the Holy Convocations or Spring and Fall Feasts, one celebration is Shavuos or Shavuot.
In America we have holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, where we gather for a meal and some fun. We also have special holidays such as Christmas & Easter, which may hold more signifigance to some than others, but are in general a time for families and festivities. Of course Israel has holidays as well, but these days are less about fun and more about what they symbolize or remember. All of Israel’s holidays are appointed times by God. You don’t have to be a person of faith to understand that Israel and the Jewish people’s life is centered on God. You simply need to know history.
Some of Israel’s holiday’s are Feast of Weeks, First Fruits, Passover and more. Passover marks the time in history when God passed over the Hebrew people when He punished Egypt. Every year Israel commemorates this time in history. Then 50 days later Shavuot/ Pentacost is celebrated. For those 50 days Jewish people all over the world are counting up to this day of celebration. It is called the “Counting of the Omer”.
This is a celebration of Moses bringing the Ten Commandments down and honoring Ruth, a gentile woman who committed her life to the Jewish woman Naomi. Ruth later became the grandmother of King David, from who’s lineage the Messiah came. The book of Acts recounts the historical moment as a time when the Holy Spirit came down. All of Israel was at the temple celebrating Shavuot. Yeshua (Jesus) told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem at the temple and wait.
Like America, Israel is now considered a secular state, but unlike America, Israel celebrates openly all biblical holidays including the weekly Shabbat. Businesses close, people leave for the weekend, some stay at home and spend time with family, enjoying a Shabbat meal and time in Synagogue. God and Family are at the center of all their holidays. It was during this stay on Thursday May 28,2009 marked the day of Shavuot/Pentacost. I was given the great privilege, as a gentile woman to experience this first hand in Israel.
It started on Thursday with me spending the afternoon at the home of Judy (the travel agent I have worked with) who lives near Sderot. I met with the finance/budget writer for the city and talked about the recent trip, Washington State, and America’s impression of Israel. He was so very thankful that 34 American’s came with me to Israel a couple weeks earlier.
This brought about a discussion about Shavuot, and the story of Ruth, a gentile, who said to Naomi the famous words “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” In my heart I was weeping during this discussion, because as I told those who came on the recent trip to Israel, I have put my stake in the ground and have said ‘Not On My Watch!’ I will not turn away from these people and I will shout for my own land America. To believe this is one thing but to stand for it is quite another.
Around 7 p.m. the Shofar blew and songs of prayer ushered in Shavuot from the Orthodox neighborhood next door, and later in the evening we packed up the salads we had made and headed for the family dinner. Wow what a dinner and what a family! The parents of one of Judy’s son in-laws hosted the dinner and the parents of the other son in-law joined also. The table was filled with generations of families. The prayer over the wine was made and then the cup of wine was passed. When it came to me, the gentile, I began to pass it to Judy without drinking. The person to my left said “no take a drink of blessing”, Judy also encouraged, I said ‘but I’m a gentile.’ Then all who heard me responded, “No, you are Ruth.” I don’t know how I held it all together at that moment, because as I write this I’m overwhelmed with emotion. At that moment I understood what happened so many years ago and the story of Ruth became all the more real. That night we laughed and talked until after midnight.
At 5 am I left for the Kotel (Wall) where I stood for 2.5 hours praying for Israel, our nation and those who had joined me on the recent trip. There were no flames of fire that came down, but the gentle sound of men’s voices singing a prayer to G_D filled the air. The beautiful Torah being brought through the crowd in a Aaronic processional, and a brush of wind that came reminded me of G_D’s faithfulness throughout all the generations. I also noticed the intense security from every perimeter watching over the children of Israel as they celebrated their beloved Torah and the gentile woman Ruth.
As I walked back to my hotel the thoughts of this Shavuot ran deeper into the fiber of my being. I realized how much I have missed out on when it comes to my own faith and the faith of the Jewish people.
Come with me to Israel and meet these wonderful people! Enjoy the land which is the fruit of their labor, and learn more about the true Heart of Israel.