Background

The many names of the holiday attest to its multiple personalities:

Chag Ha'katzir (חג הקציר, "Harvest Festival"), Yom Ha'bikurim (יום הביכורים, "First Fruits Day"), Shavu'ot(שבועות, "Festival of Weeks"), Atzeret (עצרת, a name from the Talmudic period meaning a cessation, or a solemn assembly), and Zman Matan Toratenu (זמן מתן תורתינו, "The Time of Receiving Our Torah").

One of the dominant themes of the holiday in Israel, especially in rural areas, and one of the most visible symbols of this festival is the wheat harvest. The barley harvest that commences on Pesach ends on Shavu'ot, when the wheat harvest begins. The counting of the Omer (עומר, lit. sheaf of wheat or grain) is complete, and every kibbutz, moshav, village and many cities in Israel will have an elaborate celebration around this theme.

Wishing you a Happy Chag Shavu'otKatzir, First Fruits, Atzeret, Receiving the Torah!

Poetry

Ronny Someck (b. 1951), an Israeli poet and author, was born in Baghdad and came to Israel as a young child. He studied Hebrew literature and philosophy at Tel Aviv University, and drawing at the Avni Academy of Art. He has worked with street gangs, and currently teaches literature and leads creative writing workshops.

When asked what drove him to write the poem “Wheat,” he responded: “Love”.

"Wheat"

Translated by: Vivian Eden

 

A wheatfield blows on my wife’s head and on

my daughter’s head.

How banal thus to describe blonde

but nonetheless, there grows

the bread of my life.

Music

"Shibolet Ba’sadeh" – "A spike of wheat in the field"

Lyrics and Music: Matityahu Shelem

Shelem (1904-1975) was an Israeli poet and musician who helped shape holiday celebration and ceremony practices in the kibbutz movement. Most of the holidays are agricultural in nature, such as Chagigat Ha’gez(Sheep Shearing Festival) and Chag Ha’omer (Omer Festival). Shibolet Ba’sadeh is one of many songs written for these festivals and is a staple of any Shavu'ot celebration.

Performed by Ofra Haza

English lyrics

Hebrew lyrics

"Yam Ha’shibolim" – "Sea of Grain Stalks"

Lyrics: Yitzhak Keinan

Music: Chaim Agmon

Gevatron 2007

A contemporary rendition by Shibolim, a young band from Kibbutz Geva, with homage to Gevatron the legendary singing group from the same kibbutz:

Hebrew lyrics

English lyrics

 

Shibolim – "Sheaves of Wheat"

Lyrics: Michael Kashtan

Music: Gil Aldema

Shibolim with reference to Gevatron older version

Hebrew lyrics

English lyrics

Visual Arts

The special readings for the holiday include the Book of Ruth. There are many explanations given for the reading of Ruth on Shavu'ot. The most quoted reason is that Ruth's coming to Israel took place around the time of Shavu'ot, and her acceptance into the Jewish faith was analogous of the acceptance of the Jewish people of the Torah. The story fired the imagination of many visual artists who depicted Ruth, Naomi, and the golden wheat fields of Israel.

A. M. Lilien (1874-1929)

Lilien chooses to depict Ruth in a sea of sheaves creating a wave-like motion. Ruth is carrying a sheaf of wheat on her head, wearing simple, biblical-style attire and projecting self-determination. Lilien, who with Boris Schatz established the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in 1906, sends a Zionist message of Jewish continuity from the time of the biblical Judges through today.

Zeev Raban (1890-1970)

Zeev Raban, who Joined the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in 1912, depicts Ruth in what will later be known as the Bezalel Style, an eclectic mix of East and West. She is idealized, soft, and humble. The natural elements, including the sheaves of wheat, are in the European Art Nouveau style.

Shamir Brothers, Poster for Women’s Labor Day 1952

The brothers Gavriel and Maxim Shamir were among the most noted and productive graphic designers from the mid 1930’s through the early 1990’s. In poster images from the early years of the State, the women are depicted as equal bearers of the collective endeavor. Sheaves of wheat often symbolize agriculture.

Kopel Gurwin (1921-1990)

A prominent Israeli artist, born and educated in Lithuania, Gurwin survived the Holocaust and imprisonment in concentration camps and later immigrated to Israel. He studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. Felt tapestries were his creative medium of expression and he derived inspiration from the rich source of the bible, illustrating its many themes in warm and vivid colors incorporatingthe Hebrew script as an integral, ornamental element. In this depiction of Megilat Ruth from 1987 the verse reads: “Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, I would like to go to the fields and glean among the sheaves of grain” (Ruth 2:2).

(Gurwin designed several of Israel Independence Day posters. Click here to explore a lesson plan for Yom Yerushalayim using Poster Tales: a resource which utilizes Israel Indepence Day posters thoughout the years)

Adi Nes

In his photography series “Bible Stories,” Nes depicts Ruth and Naomi as “gleaners” after the close of the vegetable and fruit market in Israel. The window of time between the close of the market and clean up is intentional and allows the needy to collect leftovers. This is modern day interpretation ofleket (לקט, "gleaning") a biblical command to leave the corners of fields unharvested so that the needy could feed themselves. Nes stages his photographs carefully and often “quotes” iconic visual images. This photograph is modeled after Jean-Francois Millet’s oil painting The Gleaners of 1857.