Tonight is Erev Shavuot. Some 3300 years ago, G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and every year on Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G-d's Gift. Shavuot means weeks, and it marks the end of the counting period (7 weeks) between Pesach and Shavuot.
There a number of traditions and customs that we observe. As this day is called the Harvest Festival people decorate their homes and synagogues with fruits, flowers and greens. Our sages say that even though Mt. Sinai was in the desert, when the Torah was given it sprang into bloom with flowers. As on all Yom Tov days, we do our preparations before the candle lighting at sundown.
There are two meals because of the two-loaf offering that was brought to the Temple for Shavuot. The tradition to eat dairy reminds us that upon receiving the Torah (including the kosher laws) the Jewish people could not cook meat in their pots, because they had not been kashered. The dairy meal is served first, then after a small break we sit down to the holiday meat meal. During the night of study there are usually trays of tasty pastries and treats to munch on for energy in the wee hours.
It is the tradition for Jews to stay awake all night to study the Torah. This is to compensate for the sin of those Jews who fell asleep at Mount Sinai on the night before G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish People. All over Israel people will be up throughout the night, learning in their homes, synagogues and anyplace where it is possible to gather. The Book of Ruth is recited as part of the study for Shavuot night.
In Jerusalem there are many classes throughout the city and one can easily walk to several locations over the course of the night and enjoy a variety of learning.
For those of us blessed to be in Jerusalem, it is customary to head to the Kotel for Shacharit prayers as the sun rises. What an amazing experience it is to traverse the narrow streets of the Old City, side by side with thousands of Jews, to the Kotel!
In the spirit of all night study I found a song for Shavuot from Arutz 7. It is a fun tune done by Rebbetzin TAP & Friends. Chag Someyach!