Tuesday evening is the start of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. In Israel it is celebrated for one day and in the Diaspora for two days.
Shavuot is a multifaceted holiday. Primarily, it marks the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people by G-d. It is when we received the Ten Commandments. It is also when we read the Book of Ruth, and it is the anniversary of the death of King David. This holiday has a lot of different names because there are so many important facets of the holiday. If you know the story of Ruth, you'll know she was a Moabite, from a very high level family who gave everything up to marry Boaz, and join the Jewish people. It's quite an amazing love story and explicitly shows how Jews are supposed to treat converts, with love and respect and affection. For Ruth's sincerity and love of the Jewish people she was "rewarded" with being the woman from whom King David is descended. Quite a magnificent honour and so well deserved. I find the whole story so moving.
I remember a few years ago being in Israel and needing some water for one of my kids. We were in the Old City at the time and my husband said, oh-don't worry, we can just stop at King David's tomb, they have a fountain there.
OH YEAH OK LET'S JUST STOP AT KING DAVID'S TOMB LIKE THAT IS THE MOST REGULAR THING IN THE WORLD EVER.
Can you imagine?
But I digress:
The other amazing part of the holiday is that it is when the Jewish people said "na'aseh v'nishma." That means "we will do, and then we will understand". It's a very interesting concept in Judaism for which there is much, much commentary.
Traditionally, Jews stay up learning Torah the entire night of Shavuot and the holiday is also marked by eating dairy foods (and there are a number of reasons for this as well).
I've made a truly spectacular cheesecake in honour of Shavuot and I have a piece coming out in The Jerusalem Post tomorrow. I hope to have a link to post tomorrow, I'm really proud of the piece.
In the meantime if you would like to read more about Shavuot here are some links:
From Aish Hatorah (lots of great stuff)
From Chabad, gotta love Chabad!