Shavuot Sustainable Resources

What is Shavuot?

The Festival of Harvest is more than a celebration of the first harvest of fruits and vegetables, it also commemorates the gift of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Shavuot is a time we are encouraged to reflect on the gift of Torah, and the gifts that the earth provides.

Shavuot is also an exciting opportunity to think about the impact our dietary choices have on our environment. Jewish tradition encourages dairy meals during Shavuot celebrations and an abstinence from meat consumption. As we think about the impact that meat consumption has on the global climate crisis, we are encouraged to take up the task of tikkun, or repair. This makes Shavuot an excellent opportunity to educate about the benefits of limiting meat consumption and consuming sustainable and ethical fruits and dairy.

Shavuot in 2023 begins on Thursday, May 25 at sundown and ends on Saturday, May 27 at sundown.

Customs and Tradition

Complete the Counting of the Omer

From Passover to Shavuot we count every day to mark both the passage of time between celebrations, and between the barley and wheat harvest and offering at the Temple. This is a time for spiritual preparation as we prepare to receive the Torah, and celebrate the first fruits of the season.

During this moment of introspection and preparation, consider The Omer Workbook from Gold Herring, a powerful guide for engaging in Jewish self-care, connection, and action.

We’re Up All Night to Learn Torah

Tikkun Leil Shavuot, studying and learning Torah until the wee hours of the morning, is a Shavuot tradition stemming from our ancestors’ mistake of sleeping in late the morning we were to receive the Torah.

This year, make sustainability a part of the conversation during your learning session. Find inspiration for sources to use at your Tikkun or Shavuot table in Food for Thought, a sourcebook on Jews, Food, and Contemporary Life. Dive into Jewish Initiative for Animal’s “Dairy on Shavuot” source sheet. One of the better known Jewish holiday customs is eating dairy on Shavuot, though, strangely, many people struggle to produce a reason for this custom!

Reconnect with the Land

As one of four harvest holidays mentioned in the Torah, Shavuot presents a wonderful opportunity to connect with the world around you. Take a look in your neighborhood at what is blooming; notice what fruits and veggies are in the produce aisle or farmers’ market; feel the turning of the seasons, and embrace the colors, textures, and flavors of a bountiful growing season.

Embrace seasonality and the harvest near you – shop local, choose vegetarian, and consider the source of the food you consume. When we think carefully about where our food comes from, we practice another element of Kashrut, and provide points of connection for the blessings and traditions associated with our holidays.

What can Shavuot teach us about the connections between Jewish tradition and agriculture? Read this farmer’s take on seeing Jewish rituals as they connect to the cycles of planting, harvest, and eating.

How do we celebrate Shavuot in modern times?

The entire family will enjoy the interactive Reconnecting to the Land and Produce. , a Shavuot program by Religious Action Center.

Consider Fruit Over Dairy

Shavuot is replete with dairy foods, from cheesecake to blintzes to burekas, but it originated as a celebration of first fruits! This Shavuot can be an opportunity to educate yourself about making food choices that are better for your health, animal welfare, and the environment.

Shavuot Recipes

Expand each recipe by clicking + next to each dish.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
English Pea Risotto
Mango Ginger Tofu
Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese Croutons
Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Pie
Garlic Herb Vegan Cheese

Sustainability Tips

Buy Fair Trade Judaica – Look around Fair Trade Judaica for ways to make smart purchases this Shavuot.

Go Vegan – Although dairy is traditionally a part of Shavuot meals, there are many reasons to go dairy-free.  Check out these dairy free dessert recipes for inspiration. Environmentalists and animal welfare activists are opting out of both meat and dairy products because of animal cruelty and the contribution to global climate change by the meat and dairy industry. Learn more about Jewish perspectives on animal welfare by checking out the Jewish Initiative for Animals.

Got Ethical Milk? – If you choose to use dairy, use the most ethical and sustainable dairy products possible. Check out Hazon’s list of Kosher Sustainable Cheeses, and read up on the sustainability and the dairy industry

More About Shavuot

Shavuot 101 (My Jewish Learning) – Shavuot, the “Feast of Weeks,” is celebrated seven weeks after Pesach (Passover). Since the counting of this period (sefirat ha-omer) begins on the second evening of Pesach, Shavuot takes place exactly 50 days after the (first) seder. Although its origins are to be found in an ancient grain harvest festival, Shavuot has been identified since biblical times with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

First Fruit Challah for Shavuot –In ancient times, the challah eaten on Shavuot was the first taste of the new year’s wheat. During the counting of the Omer, first barley, and then wheat, were counted in anticipation of the Shavuot festival. When the other first fruits were offered in Jerusalem, two large challot were made of the first fruits of the wheat plant. Like the first wheat plants, the challot were also big, fluffy and delicious.

Additional Resources

Sleepless for Shavuot from The Forward

Ruth and Lovingkindness from My Jewish Learning

Sustainable Dairy Operations

Immersive Shavuot Retreat

Experience the magic of celebrating in community with Adamah!
Shavuot Retreat at Isabella Freedman
Shavuot Retreat at Pearlstone

Virtual Shavuot Library

When we were unable to hold our Shavuot Retreats in 2020 due to the pandemic, our talented educators and scholars curated a robust offering of engaging virtual programming. Enjoy the complete collection from both retreat centers in the video playlists below.

Shavuot 2020 at Isabella Freedman
Shavuot 2020 at Pearlstone