Shavuot, the two-day holiday marking the time when, according to tradition, God gave the Israelites the Torah at Mount Sinai, begins at sundown Thursday.
Traditions for marking the holiday include staying up all night studying Torah, the Jewish holy scripture, attending services at synagogues and women and girls lighting holiday candles.
Shavuot, the Hebrew word for weeks, marks the completion of a 7-week period following Passover. Tradition holds that it took 49 days for the Israelites to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai where they were to receive the Torah.
On the second day of the holiday, the Yizkor memorial service is recited. Some congregations read the Book of Ruth, as King David, whose death occurred on Shavuot, was a descendant of Ruth the Moabite.
Other customs include decorating homes and synagogues with floral arrangements, symbolizing the flowers that miraculously popped up all over Mount Sinai at the Torah’s giving, and eating dairy foods, which cannot be mixed with meat.
The practice commemorates the fact that upon receiving the Torah, including Jewish dietary laws — kashrut — the Israelites could not cook meat in their pots, which had yet to be rendered kosher.