Shavuot in Jerusalem - What is this Holiday?

To a soundtrack of clashing metal riffs, a video team moves through a busy street market, asking market visitors what they know about the holiday that has (apparently) given them the day off. The answers are somewhat chaotic and fragmented, without a clear definition.

A quick online search may explain why this video doesn’t offer a clear definition, because – like the date itself – observances and customs vary, with calendars, locations, and communities. 

For example, in 2012 when this video was posted, the holiday was May 26-28. In 2024 the holiday is June 11-13. 

What the holiday celebrates and how it is celebrated is not easily distilled into short soundbites, as there are “no specific laws attached to it other than usual festival requirements of abstaining from creative work. The rabbinic observances for the holiday include reciting additional prayers, making kiddush, partaking of meals and being in a state of joy. There are however many customs which are observed on Shavuot” (Modern religious observances).

What the video does capture is “being in a state of joy.” The video team and market visitors are joyous, outdoors on a sunny day celebrating the holiday in their own ways. 

In a recent article, Jolanta Burke and Padraic J. Dunne (RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences) have studied the feeling of joy and its positive impacts on health and wellbeing; they have also looked at ways to cultivate joyfulness (Joy is good for your body and your mind – three ways to feel it more often).

Twelve years on from publication, this video is a timely reminder to add joyfulness to this year’s seasonal customs and observances.

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