The Book of Exodus tells us how Moses was sent by God to Egypt to lead God’s people out of slavery and oppression. A very hesitant Moses obeyed and left the comfort of his home to challenge the Pharaoh face-to-face and toe-to-toe. When the Pharaoh refused to let the people go, the stage was set for a showdown between the God Yahweh and the gods of Egypt.
After Yahweh’s repeated demonstrations of glory and power, He told Moses that there would be one more devastating plague, a plague so horrific that the Pharaoh would finally free God’s people. That night, all the firstborn sons in the land died except for the children whose household had listened to God so that the death would “pass over” their home.
This final plague caused Pharaoh to relent and the people were given their freedom. However, six days later it seemed that their freedom might be short-lived. Pharaoh and his army backed the Israelites into a corner; Pharaoh’s army in front of them and the Red Sea behind them. But, the same God who freed the people provided them with an escape route. Moses raised his staff, the Red Sea parted, the people crossed on dry land and the Pharaoh’s army drowned.
On the 50th day of freedom, the SHOFAR blew, and Yahweh descended to the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses delivered The Ten Commandments and the people of Israel and Yahweh entered into a covenant; a covenant that the Jewish people see as a marriage covenant. In the Book of Leviticus, God commands that the 50th day after Passover be celebrated as a holy day; a day that the Jews would call Shavuot. Shavuot is the day when the Jews remember the receiving of the Law and the day they entered into a sacred marriage covenant with God.
Today, when the Jews celebrate Shavuot, they light a candle and recite this prayer:
Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-O-lam a-sher ki-ddi-sha-nu be-mitz-vo-tav v’tzivanu lehadlik ner shel yom tov.
Blessed are you, God, Our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has made us holy with commandments and has commanded us to light candles for the holiday.