According to our survey of 158 respondents, 43% favored a non-traditional celebration of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, citing the date as determined according to the Sadducean/Boethusian/Karaite reckoning, which always places Shavuot on the “Sunday” 50 days after the seventh-day Shabbat (Saturday) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. However, though this option constituted the majority of the responses, an analysis of the full survey results reveals that this is not the majority opinion.

The Raw Data

Here are the actual results of the survey.

I celebrate Shavuot on the 50th day after…
28%
Passover/1st Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (traditional/Sivan 6).
43%
the Shabbat during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Sadducees – always “Sunday”).
0%
the last day of the Feast of Unleavend Bread (Falashas).
0%
I didn’t know there were different possibilities for the date of Shavuot .
15%
Whenever the Jewish calendar says so.
8%
Whenever my congregation celebrates it.
5%
I have never celebrated Shavuot.
1%
What’s Shavuot?

The traditional date of Shavuot is Sivan 6, which, according to the Jewish calendar, is always 50 days after the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 16, Pharisaic reckoning). While 28% of respondents selected this choice, 15% also indicated that they rely upon the traditional Jewish calendar to determine when to celebrate Shavuot. This means that 43% percent of all respondents celebrate Shavuot according to the traditional date of Sivan 6, putting this reckoning in a dead heat with the formerly apparent leader.

Breakdown by Demographics

Traditional Sadduccean % of total rspndnts
Jewish
54%
38%
33%
Gentile
38%
44%
66%
Messianic Cong.
47%
43%
43%

It is interesting to note that both Jewish believers (by a 19 point margin) and those involved in Messianic congregations (by a narrow margin of 4 points) favored the traditional reckoning, while Gentile believers favored that of the Sadduccees by 6 points.

This may indicate that Jewish believers are less likely to part ways with the Jewish community, and that Messianic congregations have a slight tendency to side with tradition—at least in the matter of Shavuot. On the other hand, Gentile believers may be more likely to dismiss Judaism’s point of view, indicating a certain level of disregard for the people of Israel. That said, it may be just as likely that those willing to challenge the traditional reckoning—Jew and Gentile alike—have done so through sincere study of Scripture, or even having been persuaded by Jewish roots, emotion-based reasoning (i.e. Yeshua was resurrected on a “Sunday,” allegedly making that day “first fruits,” and should therefore start the counting from the Omer, etc.). How people arrived at their conclusions cannot be discerned from the survey results, only that there does appear to be a correlation between viewpoint and degree of actual connection to the Jewish people.

Conclusion

All respondents were at least aware that there is an enduring controversy regarding the time of counting from the Omer and the subsequent dating of Shavuot. While some are content to simply follow the Jewish calendar (15%) or the lead of their congregation (8%), the majority (71%) has a definite opinion, and that opinion is heavily centered on the two main alternatives that have been in competition since the days of Yeshua.

With 43% of respondents choosing the Sadducean method, this indicates either an intentional antagonism toward tradition’s established decision, or a preponderance of alternative teaching that has had a significant influence on those both within and outside Messianic congregations. Either way, it is clear that the traditional point of view in this matter is in no way accepted carte blanche, at least in certain circles in and around the Messianic Jewish Movement, and that people are willing to entertain and embrace alternative points of view. The question is, will those who do not fall in line with tradition be willing to allow their own views to be challenged and questioned, or will they oppose tradition by reflecting their own dogmatism and closed-minded attitudes?

31 replies
  1. Neil Bicek
    Neil Bicek says:

    If you read the bible and count the Omer according to what the word of God commands us to do it, yes Shavuot is always on a Sunday. This year it is May 23.

    Reply
  2. Dan Hennessy
    Dan Hennessy says:

    I teach from a Messianic perspective at the Christian church my family and I attend, as there is no Messianic congregation nearby. Our Torah study group met last night, on the evening of 5 Sivan, to light the candles and engage in study/discussion on the relevance of Shavu’ot to us, as Gentile believers in Yeshua.

    Reply
  3. Debby
    Debby says:

    Okay, I am confused. I have a jewish calendar that says today is Shavuot–May 19. I read the scriptures and located on the Jewish calendar the beginning and counted down and it does come out as Omer 50 is today. What does your Jewish calendar indicate is Shavuot?

    Reply
  4. ruel
    ruel says:

    As a non-Jewish Messianic believer, of some years, who at present does not attend a Messianic assembly, and I am only just getting to know somethings about our Hebraic Roots, I am just alittle confused, concerning the different options surrounding the date of ‘Shavout’! I have a Jewish calendar that says today, 6th Sivan, is Shavuot –May 19. I read the scriptures and located on the Jewish calendar the beginning and counted down and it does come out as Omer 50 is today. But I also got the impression that Shavuot is always on a Sunday. So yes it seems, that Shavuot is also on Sunday 10 Sivan – May 23. Can this really be so??? What a wonderful God we worship serve, He gives us so much choice!!!!

    Reply
  5. John
    John says:

    I count from Abib 16, but when you use the visible crescent as New Moon, it does not always land on Sivan 6 since the number of days in the first two months can vary.

    Reply
  6. steve
    steve says:

    Lev. 23:11 ‘He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
    Lev 23:15-16 ‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths.
    16’You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD.
    from this we can see that the Word tells us that the feast of first fruits is the day after the Sabbath, commonly know as the Sunday after the start of passover. Starting on this day we are to start counting the Omer, This would lead us this year to this coming Sunday!

    Reply
    • KG
      KG says:

      Steve, thank you for the Scripture quote! Just a couple of notes on your commentary.

      1) It’s a common misnomer that there is such a “feast” as “Firstfruits.” Lev 23:10 doesn’t actually use the word “bikuriym” (firstfruits), but “reshiyt,” which means “beginning” (as in B’reshiyt, “In the beginning, God created…”) In fact, the Scriptures refer to Yom HaBikuriym (Day of the Firstfruits) not in conjunction with the day that begins the counting from the Omer, but it is actually a reference to Shavuot. (Numbers 28:26) There are no “feasts” between the Feast of Matzah (Unleavened Bread) and Shavuot. The day that begins the counting from the Omer is the appointed time for the wave offering, but it doesn’t have a name, and it’s not a feast.

      2) You make the following statement:

      from this we can see that the Word tells us that the feast of first fruits is the day after the Sabbath

      The whole controversy about when to begin the count from the Omer (which affects the date of Shavuot) has to do with the interpretation of “the day after the Sabbath.” Your comment indicates that it ought to be plain to everyone what “the Sabbath” means in this context. Indeed, the fact that the controversy has endured for more than two millennia says otherwise. Your view is that “Sabbath” is referring to the seventh-day Shabbat during the week of Unleavened Bread. Traditional Judaism asserts that “Sabbath” is referring to the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread (a.k.a. “Passover Day”). Which is it? Or maybe there is another possibility… I spend several pages on this very topic in the appendix to the Messianic Mo’adiym Devotional, and offer a third alternative.

      Thanks again for your comments!

      Reply
  7. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    I see Shavuot as being the 50th day after the first weekly Sabbath following Passover. So yes, it is always on the 1st day of the week. Who knew there was any other day to choose from?

    Reply
  8. Jim King
    Jim King says:

    At this time, I am persuaded that the Sadducees had this right. It seems to me that Lev 23:16 shows that Shavuot, day 50, should happen on the day after a Sabbath, and that this Sabbath on day 49 would have to be the weekly Sabbath since there is no “High Sabbath” at that time.

    Reply
    • KG
      KG says:

      Jim and Ann — thank you for your comments. Have you considered that “Sabbath” does not have to refer to a day, much less the seventh day? Consider Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:4,

      “…but during the seventh year the Land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.” (NAS)

      Since, in Scripture, “Sabbath” can explicitly refer to two different kinds of time periods (a day and a year), is it possible that “Sabbath” can refer to other time periods as well? If so, then “the day after the seventh Sabbath” in Leviticus 23:16 may not be referring to a Sabbath “day” at all. Here’s a hint: Shavuot (a.k.a. “the day after the seventh Sabbath”) means “weeks”.

      Reply
  9. Ann Davidson
    Ann Davidson says:

    Kevin, I also think the Sabbath is in reference to the weekly sabbath. But, I have not followed traditions of the Jews. Yeshua rose on First Day; He is the first resurrected to fulfill first fruits; so, it must be after the weekly Sabbath. So, I’m thinking that the first Pentecost and Shavuot came on sunday also. Karaites don’t follow Jewish tradition and they begin the count after the weekly Sabbath. When did they celebrate in Yeshua’s time? So, I don’t know about my reasoning; here’s my thoughts on this.

    Reply
  10. Jim King
    Jim King says:

    Thanks for your response. Yes, I realize that “Sabbath” can refer to weeks or years or groups of years (cf. Lev. 25:8). But in the context of Shavuot, we are told in Lev. 23:15-16 to count the DAYS, starting the DAY afater the Sabbath, to count 50 DAYS until the DAY after the seventh Sabbath. If we are counting days and stop at 50, how could this pertain to Sabbath years?

    Reply
    • KG
      KG says:

      Hi Jim. Thanks for your reply. I’m not saying this pertains to years — I’m suggesting it could mean “week.”

      The JPS, TNK and ESV all translate “shabbatot” (plural for “shabbat) in Lev. 23:15 (for example) as “weeks.” (Granted, they are not consistent in this translation, because they go on to translate “shabbat” as “sabbath.”) So in response to your point that Lev. 23:15-16 mentions counting days, I would point out that it could also be mentioning counting weeks. Indeed, the TNK translation says as much: “you shall count off seven weeks.”

      But dubious translations of Lev 23:15 aside, Torah says explicitly in D’variym (Deuteronomy) 16:9-10,

      “You shall count seven weeks (shavuot) for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks (shavuot) from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)…” (NAS)

      This version of the Omer Instructions doesn’t even mention counting days.

      So, if we know that “shabbat” as a reference to duration of time does not have to be as short as a day, and Deut. literally says we are to count seven weeks (shavuot) leading up to the Feast of Weeks (shavuot), how might harmonization of these passages affect our understanding of “the day after the shabbat” and “seven shabbatot” in Lev. 23?

      Reply
  11. Joseph Kresefsky
    Joseph Kresefsky says:

    Mishpocha, what’s your take on Lev. 23:16a, “until the day after the seventh week” – how does one determine when the seventh week has passed…that 1st day of the new week after the seventh Shabbat seems to make sense to me.

    Reply
    • KG
      KG says:

      Shalom Joseph!

      How does one determine when the week of Matzah (Unleavened Bread) has passed?

      A week (shavuah) is simply a cycle of seven (shevah) days. The Hebrew does not insist that such a span of time begins on the first day and ends on the seventh.

      That’s my take.

      Reply
  12. Mike Craig
    Mike Craig says:

    The specifics of a particular day to observe is not as important as the fact that YAH instructs us to observe it period. May the Spirit guide us with discernment in following our hearts in obedience.

    Reply
  13. Millie
    Millie says:

    15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord
    Lev 23:15-16 (KJV)

    the morrow after the seventh Sabbath has to be a Saturday evening-Sunday otherwise it would not be the day after Sabbath. So we celebrate on May 23 this year.

    Reply
  14. Millie
    Millie says:

    Can someone please explain why it is generally accepted that “ShBT” refers to a Sabbath at the beginning of the counting, either the weekly Sabbath or a Feast Sabbath, but does not necessarily have to mean that for the final one?
    If we take it at face value and accept it means Sabbath at both ends, we learn so much about our lovely Saviour Yeshua.

    If it is the day after the weekly Sabbath, it foreshadowed and represents His resurrection. He, the true unleavened bread of heaven was represented by the wave offering – an unleavened barley loaf. (The NT calls him the firstfruit) The women found he had risen on the first day of the week, (i.e. the day after the weekly Sabbath). Like so much of His ministry and life, it is symbolized in this celebration.

    The only time leavened bread is waved before the Lord is at Pentecost. In scripture, leaven always represents sin. this cannot represent Yeshua. Since the NT also calls us firstfruits, this represents us, sinful humans accepted by The Lord because of Yeshua’s perfect sacrifice.

    Reply
    • KG
      KG says:

      Shalom Millie — “Shabbat” doesn’t necessarily refer to a Sabbath-day at the beginning of the counting. It could mean a “Sabbath-week” in all the instances in Lev. 23:9-16. “Shabbat,” by definition, does not refer to a span of time, which is why we see it in Scripture explicitly referring to a “day” as well as a “year.” Rather, by definition, “Shabbat” refers to a quality of how time is spent, that is, a time to stop.

      Reply
  15. Millie
    Millie says:

    We don’t start counting on a Sabbath. If the day we start is the day after a Sabbath, where is the “week” to be measured from? It must be a period of 7 days. Since there is nothing to tell us when it begins, the more obvious choice for the translation would be one of the Sabbaths.

    Most people take one of the Sabbaths in Unleavened bread week. Why do they translate it as a particular day at the beginning of the counting? and more generally as a week at the end? That makes the instructions very clumsy.

    Why translate the same word completely differently to justify their choice of start day? (especially when taking the weekly Sabbath makes this quite unnecessary.

    It just seems rather contrived. If the word can mean the weekly Sabbath, why not be consistent?

    Reply
    • KG
      KG says:

      Millie, if I understand you correctly, you’re basically questioning the idea of translating “shabbat” as “week” in Lev. 23… when the “obvious choice for the translation” ought to be “shabbat,” i.e. the seventh-day Shabbat. My point is that “shabbat” always means “shabbat,” but the word itself does not necessarily indicate a specific length of time, much less the seventh-day.

      You should read through my other posts, but I’ll reiterate that “shabbat” does not necessarily have to refer to a day. Just two chapters after the one in question, “shabbat” is used to refer to the seventh year. It would be silly to impose upon Lev. 25:4, “but during the seventh year the land will have a (seventh-day) sabbath rest, a (seventh-day) sabbath to the LORD.” The point being, every time we see the word “shabbat,” it is incorrect to assume that it means a day (or a holy day) at all. Indeed, the passage we are discussing doesn’t clarify this in any way (hence the two-millennia controversy). Granted “shabbat” nearly always does refer to the seventh day, just not in every case. Does that make Scripture’s usage of “shabbat” inconsistent? That’s a hard line to hold to, given Leviticus 25:4.

      Reply
  16. Millie
    Millie says:

    Also, if Shabbat refers to a “stop” or ceasing, in Lev 23:9-16, the only times that we are told so do this are specific days. Nowhere are we told to do this for any other period of time.

    Reply
    • KG
      KG says:

      Actually, we are — Leviticus 25:4, as cited in my previous post. But even more intriguiging is Exodus 12:15. Check this out (this is why we need to read in the Hebrew):

      “Seven days you [are to] eat unleavened things (matzot)–in the first day, leaven (s’or) you [are to] cause to cease (taSHBiyTu) out of your houses… from the first day till the seventh day…” (YLT)

      Hopefully you see the resemblance between “SHaBaT” and “taSHBiyTu” — that would be because they share the same root! *

      Could this be a weeklong “shabbat”?

      And instead of referring to, say, work, could the “stopping” or “ceasing” be referring to leaven?

      And if so (especially given the other evidences discussed, i.e. De. 16), how might that affect our understanding of “from the day after the shabbat“?

      *cf. passages like Ex. 23:12, “…but on the seventh day, you shall cease (tiSHBoT) from labor…” [NAS] or Lev.26:34, “…then the Land will rest (tiSHBaT) and enjoy its sabbaths (SHaBToteiha)” [NAS]

      Reply
  17. Yosef
    Yosef says:

    The Day of Pesakh is a Sabbath (High Sabbath) so the next day is the start of the counting ending this year on May 19th. Two thousand years ago it just so happened to land on Sunday fullfilling both ways of counting.

    Reply
  18. JimH
    JimH says:

    In the article, you said, “it is clear that the traditional point of view in this matter is in no way accepted carte blanche, at least in certain circles in and around the Messianic Jewish Movement, and that people are willing to entertain and embrace alternative points of view. The question is, will those who do not fall in line with tradition be willing to allow their own views to be challenged and questioned, or will they oppose tradition by reflecting their own dogmatism and closed-minded attitudes?”
    Why do you refer to the non-traditionalists as “dogmatic” and “closed-minded”? Did it not ever occur to you that the traditionalists are equally, if not more so, dogmatic and closed-minded? I mean, are they any more willing or likely to listen to and reflect on the opposing position than the non-traditionalists? Remember, Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for following their tradition to the point pf making the word of God of non effect. In this case, the Sadducies happen to agree with scripture. Read Leviticus chapter 23, closely, for yourself.

    Reply
    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jim. Please allow me to clarify.

      I was not saying that non-traditionalists are dogmatic and closed-minded as opposed to traditionalists (thereby implying that traditionalists are flexible and open-minded). What I was implying was that, in my experience, some who hold to their non-traditional viewpoints (i.e. Sadducean method) do so dogmatically and closed-mindedly — not that they are unwilling to reconsider tradition, but unwilling to consider other non-traditional viewpoints that clash with theirs.

      Reply
  19. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    Wow! I love the Word of YHVH:-) The TRUTHS to be found in it are inexhaustible. I thought I had this one understood, but it’s back to The Good Book for me. I know I’ll see it brother Kevin, because whenever I study something you shared in the original language another veil is removed from my eyes. I think I will look at it in the Paleo Hebrew too. Thanks for helping us along in our journey back to Hebraic roots!

    Reply

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