Shavuot — Bringing the Outside In

How many names can one holiday have? Our last issue of Simply Celebrating! describes four of the common names for Shavuot.

But there are more.  Like Feast of the Flowers (used in ancient Persia) and Feast of the Roses (in Italy).  These names help us understand why we decorate our homes and synagogues with greenery and flowers.

Imagine this scene:  at the time when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the typically barren desert burst into color with flowers, “as if the earth itself rejoiced.”

Which flowers are traditional? Lilies and roses, because of these verses in the Song of Songs (2:1-2):

I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

As a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.

In some synagogues, aromatic spices and roses are strewn on the synagogue floor.  This is intended to be a reminder of commentary describing the Israelites fainting from fear when they heard God’s voice – and, therefore, needing to be revived.

Another explanation is that the fragrance of spices “filled the world as each commandment was issued.” (I like this one.)

Grass on the floor?  Yes, some synagogues put grass clippings on the floor as a nod to the grass on which the Israelites stood as they received the Torah.

In Israel today, young children come to school the day before Shavuot dressed in white, wearing crowns of flowers or greenery.

Small trees and boughs are often placed near the Ark.   Think of the popular song, “There is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it. ” Proverbs 3:18    Here’s an upbeat version of the classic Etz Chaim that I really like.  (There’s even a puppet in this rendition!)

What can you do in your home?  I’ve always loved this description from Arlene Rossen Cardozo about how her girls turned their home into an indoor garden with fresh flowers and ferns.

 “Rebecca makes dandelion and lily-of-the-valley bouquets to adorn small tables . . .  Rachel chooses various leaves and ferns  . . . to decorate our mantel.”

Want to read more about special foods for Shavuot?

Plus, check out our Pinterest board for ideas, crafts, recipes, and more.

Hag sameach! Happy holiday!

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