G-d established the moedim by His Word and at His command. We find both the history of the moed and the details of His commandments in the pages of Scripture. These are the traditional passages that are read during Shavuot to keep us near to our Lord and grounded in His Word.
While some find it appropriate to dismiss traditional observances as mere "traditions of men" we should be like the Bereans and consider what Scripture says about tradition.
Shavuot is richly filled with traditions and symbolism. Many of the elements center around the tradition that the Israelites received the Torah at Mt. Sinai on Shavuot. While there is no concrete evidence from Scripture for such a date, it is a very strongly held belief.
There is a traditional blessing for entering into the moed:
Blessed are You, oh Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.
Here are some of the other traditions of the moed:
- Although the Torah only ordains a single day for the moed, Shavuot (like other holidays) is traditionally celebrated for two days. For more on this tradition, see this article from My Jewish Learning.
- In Scripture, days begin at sundown and it is traditional to stay up all night for Shavuot learning Torah. One explanation for this tradition is that the Jewish people did not rise early on the day G‑d gave the Torah, and it was necessary for G‑d Himself to awaken them. To compensate for their behavior, Jews have accepted upon themselves the custom of remaining awake all night.
- There is a tradition to specifically read the Ten Commandments to fulfill the mitzvah of "you shall make a proclamation" found in Leviticus 23:21.
- There is also the tradition of eating dairy products on this moed.
Many eat dairy foods on Shavuot commemorating the fact that upon receiving the Torah, including the Kosher laws, the Jewish people could not cook meat in their pots which had yet to be rendered Kosher.
- Baptism (through immersion or pouring water) is another custom associated with Shavuot:
Moroccan Jews have an ancient custom they perform on Shavuot. They pour water on each other! (Hayyim Schauss, Guide to the Jewish Holy Days, p. 95). This becomes one more symbol that Shavuot pictures God's visibly placing the Ruach in the followers of Yeshua.1