What do a harvest festival, 49 days, and a passionate love story have in common?
Shavuot means 'weeks'. God said, "Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you." (Deuteronomy 16:9-10) Offerings of barley and wheat are made, and the 'seven species': pomegranate, grapes, olives, wheat, barley, figs and date honey are celebrated. It's a thankgiving time for the goodness of the land. It's a time of 'bikurim' or firstfruits. It's the time that the Torah was given to Israel and they agreed to follow it, making them a covenant community, and it's also the time that the church or body of Messiah was born at Pentecost. New birth... First fruits.
The word Pentecost comes from the 50 days that are counted from Passover to Shavuot - seven weeks is 49 days, and 50 days if you count the feast itself. The parallel events of the Torah being given at Sinai and the Holy Spirit being given in Jerusalem are no coincidence. Both signified a birth of the two religions, if we may call them that, and both were from the hand of God. One happened seven weeks after the Passover and liberation from Egypt, and the other seven weeks after the crucifixion and resurrection of our Passover lamb, Yeshua the Messiah. Both catapulted faith communities into action.
And traditionally, the book of Ruth is read during the feast, because the story is set at the time of the barley harvest, and Shavuot occurs between the barley and wheat harvests. Also, it is in the instructions for how to celebrate Shavuot that God includes this commandment: “when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23:22) This was the set up for the love story. Well - part of the love story...