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Shavuot is a time to remember when the Israelites stood at the base of Mount Sinai and this is a little reminder. This Torah shield, from 1826/1827, is a representation of the  tablets on which the Ten Commandments are inscribed. It would have been hung around the top of a Torah, thus the reason for the metal chain which extends from the top of the tablets.

Historically, the giving of the Torah happened at Mount Sinai on Shavuot and so it is a time to celebrate. For this reason, Shavuot is also called Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of the Torah).

Also known as the Festival of Weeks, Shavuot is one of the three major festivals when the Israelites would have gone to Jerusalem to visit the Temple (the other two are Passover and Sukkot). Shavuot has both agricultural significance and historical significance. In terms of Shavuot’s agricultural significance, it was the time to bring the first fruits of the harvest to the Temple. Thus Shavuot is also called Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruit).

It is important to remember that Shavuot is called the “giving” of the Torah, rather then the “receiving” of the Torah. The sages explain that the first time the Torah was “given”.  After that moment of “giving”, the Torah is constantly being “received” every single day. That is why the use of the term “giving” is key to understanding the holiday of Shavuot.

Torah Sheild, 1826/1827. Collection of Yeshiva University (1996.298).