Pentecost is the Greek name given to the 50th day after Passover, which in Christian tradition is commemorated as the day that the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to begin preaching and marked the official birth of the Church (Acts 2).
In Jewish tradition, Pentecost has been in existence since God gave Moses the Law (Exodus 34:22 and Leviticus 23:15-21). It is considered to mark the exact day that Israel was given the Torah (first five books of the Bible) on Mount Sinai.
The Feast of Weeks, called Shavuot in Hebrew, began as an agricultural festival thanking God for the first fruits of the harvest. In biblical times, Jewish men were required to travel to Jerusalem and offer their sacrifices at the Temple. After the temple’s destruction, the scattered Jewish communities shifted the holiday’s focus to celebrating the gift of the Torah.
Shavuot is a two-day festival during which no work is allowed. On the first evening it is customary for families to stay up all night studying the Torah and praying, followed by a sunrise service. In Jerusalem, this service takes place at the Western Wall with thousands of people. The Ten Commandments are recited, and the Jewish people publicly affirm their dedication to obeying God.
For more information on the traditions and teachings associated with Pentecost/Shavuot, click here.