Shavuot Themes & Theology
Jewish mysticism has also influenced Shavuot. For mystics, God is like a groom and Israel is like a bride. Shavuot then becomes the anniversary of the marriage between God and Israel. Other mystical parallels are made. Marking the material wheat harvest on Shavuot, the people were to bring two loaves of bread as an offering in the Temple. This mirrored the spiritual "harvest" of Shavuot, the two tablets of the Law. The counting or "sefirah" (the 7X 7 weeks of theomer) also has mystical implications. The number seven equals the days of creation. The word "sefirah" is also the word for each of the levels of divine emanation in Jewish mysticism. Of the 10 levels, the lower seven are believed to be within human apprehension.
During the second century, the omer period leading up to Shavuot changed from a time of happiness of anticipation of the harvest, to one of sadness. There are a number of reasons given for this. The one most frequently mentioned is the legendary plague that purportedly killed 12,000 of Rabbi Akiba's students. However, other theories posit that once Shavuot was recognized as the anniversary of Revelation, the period leading up to it necessarily became one of apprehension and trepidation.
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