The First Fruits and the Giving of the Law:
The Meaning of Shavuoth
Judaism has always insisted that its God is a God of history as well as of nature. Where other peoples, ancient and primitive alike, have usually drawn a distinction between the Supreme Being who is the almighty lord of the universe and the genius loci who is the patron spirit of their own community, Israel has protested from the start that its God is revealed not only in the wonders of creation but also in the fate and fortune of His peculiar people. If He “causes the wind to blow and the rain to descend,” He also “goes forth for the salvation of His anointed.”
Nowhere has this concept found more eloquent expression than in the three great seasonal festivals of the Jewish year. Each of them started out as a simple agricultural celebration, current in the Holy Land from time immemorial and of a type such as one might find among rustic populations anywhere. Yet before they could become fully acceptable to Judaism, they had perforce to be invested with an additional historical significance, so that at one and the same time they would celebrate the presence and operation of God, not only in the phenomena of nature, but also in the destinies of men. Each of them came therefore to be associated, sooner or later, with some crucial event in the career of Israel.
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