Jewish festival of Shavuot celebrated

It’s not every Sunday that the reading of the Ten Commandments is followed by an ice cream party.

But this Sunday, part of the Jewish festival of Shavuot, included just that.

The two-day festival began Saturday evening and ends at sundown today. It celebrates the giving of the Torah – the first five books of the Hebrew Bible – at Mount Sinai about 3,300 years ago, said Rabbi Zalman Fischer of Chabad of Augusta.

Dairy foods, like ice cream and cheesecake, are a popular choice for the holiday.

“At Sinai, the Jewish people became obligated in all Torah laws, including the laws of kosher,” Fischer said. “So when they left the mountain, back to their tents, the dairy was the only thing ready to eat, as kosher meat takes a while to prepare.”

It’s one of many ways the holiday is celebrated. Some members of Jewish congregations hang greens in their homes.

“Another thing, at least for adults, is to stay awake all night on the first evening of this holiday and study Torah until dawn,” Fischer said.

The highlight of the festival comes Sunday, when children and their families attend a reading of the Ten Commandments, Fischer said.

“This is based on a tradition that before G-d gave the Torah he asked the people for guarantors that the Torah would be kept and appreciated,” Fischer wrote in an e-mail, following a common Jewish practice of not writing out the name of God.

After God rejected suggestions that the rabbis or elders be responsible for the Torah and ensuring its laws would be followed, “the Jews offered the children as guarantors,” Fischer said, “and that was accepted.”

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