Are you familiar with all the laws and customs of Shavuos? Read this comprehensive guide by Rabbi Shmuel Lesches, Rov of Young Yeshivah Shul in Melbourne, Australia.
The following is a Halacha guide compiled by Rabbi Shmuel Lesches, Rov of Young Yeshivah Shul in Melbourne, Australia.
[Please be advised that all times listed here are only for Melbourne, Australia. Please see your local calendar for proper times in your location.]
🙝 Shabbos Mevorchim / Chazak
The Baal Koreh receives the Aliyah containing the Tochecha and recites the Brocho before and after it. He is not called up to the Torah; however, he does receive the Mi Sheberach after.
The Tochecha is read more quietly and quickly than usual. Obviously, one must still hear every single word clearly.
The Aliyah of Chazak is given to a prominent person. The whole congregation stands for the last Posuk.
Unlike every other Shabbos Mevorchim, Av Harachamim is recited on Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan, in memory of the tragedies that occurred during this month. [Thus, it is recited even when there is a Bris.]
It is customary for the Gabboim to arrange a Farbrengen with the purpose of increasing resolutions in learning Torah, keeping Mitzvos B’hidur, and rejoicing in the completion of the Torah.
The fifth chapter of Pirkei Avos is recited after Mincha.
Tachnun is not recited from Rosh Chodesh Sivan (Tuesday evening) until after the twelfth day of Sivan. One should not undertake a fast on these days, even for a Yohrtzeit. [However, a Chosson and Kallah fast on their wedding day, unless their wedding occurs on the day after Shavuos.]
Many customs of mourning associated with Sefirah Haomer no longer apply from the first morning of the Shloshes Y’mei Hagboloh (i.e. Friday). Music, dancing, and weddings are permissible. Nevertheless, one should not take a haircut until Erev Shavuos.
🙝 Shabbos Bamidbar
In 5746, the Rebbe made a “Bakasha Nafshis (heartfelt request) that, in association with Rosh Chodesh Sivan, when the Jewish people encamped around Har Sinai with unity, every community should utilise the day of Shabbos to focus on the idea of Achdus, including through Torah gatherings and Farbrengens. This Shabbos is often referred to in Chabad circles as Shabbos Achdus.
Av Harachamim and Tzidkosecha are not recited this Shabbos.
For Parshas Nasso, which is read at Mincha and into the following week, there are differences of opinion regarding some of the Aliyos. According to Chabad custom, the last Aliyah at Mincha (as well as Monday and Thursday) ends at Perek 4 Posuk 33. For the purposes of Chitas, Rishon ends at Perek 4 Posuk 28, and Shishi ends at Perek 7 Posuk 82.
The sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos is recited after Mincha.
Vihi Noam and V’atah Kaddosh are not recited on Motzei Shabbos.
🙝 Yom Tov Preparations
The Mitzvah of V’Samechta B’Chagecha on Yom Tov entails eating meat, wine and delicacies; providing new clothing or jewellery for one’s wife according to his means; and giving sweets to the children. These should be arranged in advance.
Prior to every Yom Tov, the Rebbe emphasized that the Yom Tov requirements of the needy be met. Yom Tov is also an especially appropriate time to host guests.
One should make spiritual preparations for Shavuos as well. These include learning Torah – especially the laws of Shavuos and topics related to Matan Torah, as well as increasing in Ahavas Yisroel.
During the period before Yom Tov, one should reach out and do all within his or her power to ensure that all Jews – men, women, children and even small babies – should attend the Aseres Hadibros on the first day of Shavuos.
🙝 Flowers and Foliage
Shulchan Oruch mentions the custom of decorating the Shule with trees (since Shavuos is the day of judgement for fruits), and flowers (to commemorate the foliage that appeared on barren Har Sinai). For various reasons, it is not our custom to decorate Shule with trees and flowers, but this may be done at home.
Flowers and decorative leaves or branches which were cut and arranged prior to Shavuos are regarded as a decoration and are not Muktzeh. Therefore, when necessary, they may be moved on both Yom Tov and Shabbos. However, if some of the flowers are not yet in full bloom and exposure to additional moisture will induce them to blossom further, the vase must be moved gently so that the water level remains constant.
When all flowers are already in full bloom and exposure to additional moisture will not induce them to blossom further, the following further leniencies apply:
- One may take flowers out of the vase of water. One may also return the flowers to the same vase, as long as the original water was not changed.
- One may place the flowers in a new vase that was prepared and filled with water before Shavuos. One may also add flowers to a vase which already has flowers from before Shavuos.
- On Yom Tov (but not on Shabbos), one may top up the water in the vase if necessary, but the ratio of the new water must be less than half of the total. One may certainly not replace the existing water.
A potted plant should not be moved due to two concerns – Muktzeh and aiding plant growth. [In principle, these issues are subject to differing Halachic opinions and other variables.] If the potted plant accidentally overturns, or some soil spills out, it should be left alone. [If doing so will create a hindrance or inconvenience, a Rav should be consulted.]
For practical purposes, a potted plant should generally be treated as attached to the ground. Therefore, one may not water it at all or detach any of its leaves or branches. One may not lean on a potted tree or shrub, move it with his hands even ever so slightly, place anything in its branches, or remove anything caught in its branches.
Flowers, branches or leaves that were detached (regardless of the cause) on Shavuos are Muktzeh. The same is true even if there is just a doubt whether it became detached on Shavuos. It goes without saying that they are Muktzeh when still attached to the ground.
One may smell flowers and plants on Shavuos – even if still attached to the ground (and hence Muktzeh). One should remember to make the appropriate Brocho. However, one may not smell attached fruits.
🙝 Erev Shavuos
On Erev Shavuos, one should not donate blood, take a blood test, or undergo any procedures involving blood loss. [Of course, this prohibition does not apply in a case of Pikuach Nefesh.]
It is appropriate to take a haircut in honour of Shavuos, but not before Erev Yom Tov (i.e. before Motzei Shabbos).
If applicable, one’s nails should be cut in honour of Yom Tov.
It is a Mitzvah to immerse in a Mikvah on Erev Yom Tov, after midday.
Just like on Erev Shabbos, it is preferable to avoid beginning a full meal once the tenth Halachic hour of the day begins (2:47pm), in order to properly enjoy the Yom Tov meal at night. However, one may snack in small quantities.
Shavuos is an opportune time to enhance one’s Torah learning and make positive resolutions – without hindrance from the Satan – to increase (quantitatively as well as qualitatively) in one’s private and public Shiurim of both Nigleh and Chassidus; to spread Torah to others; to enhance one’s adherence to the daily study of Chitas and Rambam; and to accept upon oneself the Ol Shel Torah (yoke of Torah).
The Rebbe’s customary Shavuos greeting: “Kabbolas Hatorah B’Simcha ub’Pnimiyus” means “May you receive the Torah joyfully and internally”.
One should give Tzedakah on Erev Yom Tov for the two days of Yom Tov.
One should arrange a pre-existing flame from which to light the candles on the second night of Shavuos.
Candle-lighting is at 5:00pm. The Brochos are Shel Yom Tov and Shehecheyanu. [If eating out, one should ensure that some practical benefit is derived from the candles after Yom Tov begins.]
Since it is Yom Tov, if one neglected to light at the proper time, one may – and should – light candles on Yom Tov itself, from a pre-existing flame.
When a man is required to light candles, he does not recite Shehecheyanu, as he will be doing so in Kiddush. [Therefore, it is best that he lights candles right before Kiddush, so that his Shehecheyanu is linked to both.] Similarly, if a woman needs to recite her own Kiddush, she does not recite Shehecheyanu, as she already did so at candle-lighting.
🙝 First Night of Shavuos
On the first night of Shavuos, Maariv (and Kiddush) should not begin before Tzeis Hakochovim.
One must drink a cup of wine every day of Yom Tov. This should be paid special attention by those who do not make their own Kiddush.
🙝 Ya’aleh Veyavo in Bentching
If one forgets to recite Ya’aleh Veyavo in bentching:
- If he remembers before Hashem’s name at Bonei Yerushalayim, he goes back.
- If one realized after that, but before starting the next Brocho, he recites the extra Brocho as printed in the Bentcher.
- If one already began even the first word of the next Brocho, one must begin bentching again.
The Horachamon for Yom Tov is recited.
🙝 Tikun Leil Shavuos
The custom is to stay awake the entire first night of Shavuos learning Torah.
Needless to say, the night of Shavuos is not the appropriate time for lectures or forums about social, economic, political and communal issues. Although important, they cannot really be regarded as a form of Torah study – unless the focus is to learn the Torah’s perspective.
The recitation of Tikun Leil Shavuos should be prioritized over all other forms of learning and Shiurim.
One should be mindful of the errors that have crept into the text of the Zohar and Sefer Yetzirah in many printed editions. One should recite the text as corrected in Likutei Sichos volume 28, page 315.
The Tefillos and Yehi Ratzons that appear in some editions of Tikun Leil Shavuos are omitted, and Kaddish is not recited.
If, for whatever reason, one did not complete the entire Tikun Leil Shavuos on the first night of Shavuos, he should do so at the earliest opportunity.
Shortly before dawn (5:53am), one immerses in the Mikvah four times.
At dawn, one washes Neggel Vasser and recites Brochos. One should not begin learning Torah after dawn until he concludes Brochos.
The Brocho of Tzitzis is not recited at this time as it is still too early. After staying awake the entire night, it is generally recommended to sleep for several hours and daven at the usual time, in order to focus on one’s davening at the usual unhurried pace.
Since B’dieved one fulfils his obligation when reciting the daytime Shema immediately after dawn, it is worthwhile to recite it then, with the intention that he thereby fulfils his obligation only if he neglects to do so at the ideal time.
One does not recite Krias Shema She’al Hamittah when going to sleep after dawn.
If one chooses to daven before going to sleep, he should ensure that he recites the Brocho of Tzitzis and Shema after the earliest time (6:20am), and Shmoneh Esrei after sunrise (7:15am).
The Brocho of Tzitzis is not recited on a Tallis Koton worn overnight. One who does not wear a Tallis Gadol should change his Tallis Koton before reciting the Brocho.
🙝 Shacharis & Hallel
Care must be taken to recite Krias Shema during the proper time (between 6:20-9:45am). One who goes to sleep prior to davening should ensure that he awakens in time to recite Shema.
Full Hallel is recited on Shavuos. When reciting Hallel, one may not interrupt it – other than for those things that one may respond to during the Brochos of Krias Shema. [I.e. If the Chazzan recites Kedushah, one responds Kodosh, Boruch and Yimloch. When the Chazzan says Ha’E-l Hakodosh, one answers Omein. When the Chazzan says Modim, one answers the three words Modim Anachnu Loch. When the Chazzan recites Kaddish, one answers Omein Yehei Shmei etc, and Omein to d’amiran b’olmo. One also answers Borchu and Omein when the Brochos are recited before and after an Aliyah or Haftorah.]
Hallel is recited standing (unless one is feeble or infirm).
It is preferable to recite Hallel with the Minyan. If one is not up to the Minyan, this creates a dilemma; on the one hand it is appropriate to recite Hallel with the congregation (if he hasn’t yet begun Boruch She’omar), and on the other hand, it is appropriate that one davens in the correct order. For this reason, the Rebbeim were punctilious about being up to Hallel when the Minyan recited it on Yom-Tov.
If one forgot to recite Hallel, he should recite it with a Brocho as soon as he remembers, as long as it is not yet sunset (or without a Brocho until Tzeis).
If one mistakenly recited half-Hallel, he must repeat the entire Hallel (without a Brocho).
🙝 Krias Hatorah
It is not our custom to recite Akdomus. (The Rebbe would recite it quietly.)
The Aliya containing the Aseres Hadibros is given to a prominent person.
The Rebbe instituted that all men, women, children, and even newborns (health permitting), attend Shule to hear the Aseres Hadibros. The congregation stands during the reading of the Aseres Hadibros, facing the Sefer Torah.
The first day’s Maftir is given to a learned and prominent person, due to the special significance of this Haftorah. The congregants read along in an undertone, and some have the custom to stand up while reading it.
🙝 First Day – Yom Tov Meal
The Mitzvah of V’Samechta B’Chagecha requires one to celebrate Yom Tov with his family. As such, one should not overly prolong the time he spends at any communal Kiddush or Farbrengen.
If possible, one avoids beginning the meal after the tenth Halachic hour begins (approximately 2:47pm), so that one has an appetite for the Yom-Tov meal of the second night.
It is customary to eat Milchigs on the first day of Shavuos. By the same token, Yom Tov must be celebrated with the consumption of meat.
One of the reasons for eating Milchigs is to emphasize that Yidden – unlike the angels who visited Avraham Avinu – are careful to separate between milk and meat. As such, special care must be taken to adhere to all the Halachos of Kashrus. These include:
- Waiting one full hour after Milchigs, or six hours after eating cheeses cured for more than six months. [It may not be practical to consume aged cheeses on Shavuos, as one must also eat meat.]
- Making a Brocho Acharona between Milchigs and Fleishigs.
- Not using the same tablecloths, utensils and loaves for Milchigs and Fleishigs.
- If the same table is shared by people eating Milchigs and Fleishigs, a Hekker (Halachically acceptable indicator) must be utilised. This can generally be achieved by using separate placemats or placing something distinctive and unusual in between.
- Not eating Milchigs together with a Challah baked in a Fleishig oven or vice versa. [There is grounds to be lenient if the Challos weren’t physically touching any part of the oven, and the oven was absolutely clean and devoid of steam whilst the Challos were baking.]
- Not baking a Milchig or Fleishig loaf of bread lest people mistakenly think it is Parve. If already baked, it may not be eaten. Exceptions: The loaf has a distinctive shape, or it is visibly and obviously noticeable as Milchig or Fleishig, or it is small enough to be consumed within one day.
- Using separate knives and blenders (or Parve utensils) to cut vegetables used with Milchigs and Fleishigs. This is especially true when cutting sharp vegetables (e.g. an onion), since they assume the status of the knife even if it was completely clean and recently unused.
If Parve food was already cooked in a Fleishig pot, and the pot had not been used for Fleishig in the previous 24 hours, the Parve food may be eaten with Milchig food. If the pot had been used for Fleishig in the previous 24 hours, the Parve food may be served in Milchig dishes, but not eaten directly together with Milchig food. All the above applies to Parve food already cooked in a Fleishig pot. However, one should
- not initially plan to prepare Parve food in a Fleishig pot with the intention of eating it with Milchig food or utensils; in cases of need, a Rav should be consulted.
Needless to say, Chassidim (amongst others) are careful to eat only Chalav Yisroel. Accordingly, one should not even eat Parve or Chalav-Yisroel foods that came into contact with non-Chalav-Yisroel utensils whilst hot.
The Brocho on cheesecake containing flour is Mezonos, even if the crust is thin.
The first day of Shavuos is the Yohrtzeit of the Baal Shem Tov, and is therefore an opportune time to mention a teaching and story of the Baal Shem Tov. Shavuos is also associated with Moshe Rabbeinu (who received the Torah) and Dovid Hamelech (who compiled Tehillim). Therefore, Shavuos is an opportune time to enhance one’s commitment to learning Chitas.
🙝 First Day Afternoon
One may not perform any preparations on the first day for the second night and day of Yom Tov.
The Rebbe instituted the custom of Tahalucha, encouraging all Chassidim to visit community Shules and enhance their Simchas Yom Tov by sharing words of Torah (both Nigleh and Chassidus). The Rebbe attached much importance to Tahalucha.
🙝 Second Night of Shavuos
On the second night of Shavuos, the candles should be kindled with a pre-existing flame, and not before Tzeis Hakochavim (5:59pm). The Brochos are Shel Yom Tov and Shehecheyanu.
Tasks and preparations required for the second night of Yom Tov should not be conducted before this time.
Candles must not be waxed into place, nor may the wicks be twisted. When necessary, one may remove the wax from the previous night in a way that it falls directly into the bin.
🙝 Second Day of Shavuos
Some have the custom of reading Rus in Shule on the second day of Yom Tov. Although that is not our custom, the link between Rus and Shavuos is observed by the fact that we read the entire Sefer as part of Tikun Leil Shavuos.
Yizkor is recited before Musaf. Those who leave the Shule for Yizkor may recite “Av Harachamim” after Yizkor if they wish to.
After Mincha of the second day of Yom Tov, we wash for Hamotzi and partake in a Farbrengen at which the Nigunim of the Rebbeim (and the Daled Bavos) are sung. At these Farbrengens, the Rebbe would frequently speak about learning Chitas and Rambam; about the importance of Chinuch; and encourage everyone’s participation in the Kinus Torah.
🙝 Motzei Shavuos
Ya’aleh Veyavo (and Horachamon) is recited during Bentching, even if it is already Tzeis Hakochavim (5:59pm).
On Motzei Shavuos, Kiddush Levana is recited after Maariv.
Havdalah is recited without Besomim and candles. V’Yiten Lecha is not recited.
🙝 After Shavuos
The day after Yom Tov is known as “Yom Tovo’ach”. It is also Isru Chag, and should be celebrated with additional food items. One may not fast on this day – even a Chosson and Kallah on their wedding day.
In association with the Yom Tov of Shavuos, the Rebbe encouraged all to attend a Kinus Torah. [The Kinus Torah in Melbourne will take place on Sunday after Shavuos, from 3:30-7:00pm.]
The days after Shavuos until the twelfth of Sivan (inclusive) are known as “Y’mei Tashlumin”, during which Tachnun is not recited. The Alter Rebbe once remarked that these are the days to “pack” all the treasures and revelations of Shavuos.
🙝 International Date Line
One should not cross the International Date Line during Sefirah Haomer, unless it is absolutely unavoidable.
Polar flight routes can be problematic. If it is absolutely necessary to fly such a route, or after the fact, one should seek guidance from a Rav familiar with these matters.
If one crossed the International Date Line, he observes Shavuos in accordance with his personal count of Sefiras Haomer. Thus, his first day of Shavuos will not coincide with the sixth of Sivan; the day of Matan Torah.
One who travelled east (e.g. from Australia to USA) observes Shavuos a day earlier than the people at his destination (i.e. on Sunday and Monday, the fifth and sixth of Sivan), and these Halachos are relevant:
- Sunday: This day is Yom-Tov for the traveller but not for the local populace. The traveller should recite the Yom Tov Tefillos and Kiddush, but omit the three words “Zman Matan Toraseinu”. On Motzei Shabbos, he needs to recite Vatodienu during Maariv and Yaknehaz at Kiddush of the night meal.
- Monday: This is the second day of Yom-Tov for the traveller but the first day for the local populace. The traveller observes Yom-Tov as usual, and he may include the three words “Zman Matan Toraseinu” in his Tefillos. At the end of this day, the traveller recites Havdallah in private.
- Tuesday: This day is Yom-Tov for the local populace but weekday for the traveller. The traveller should don Tefillin and daven the weekday Tefillos. Other than that, he should not perform any Melocho, even in private. Likewise, for appearances sake, he should act as though it is Yom Tov, such as wearing Yom Tov clothing and attending Shule.
One who travelled west (e.g. from USA to Australia) observes Shavuos a day later than the people at his destination (i.e. on Tuesday and Wednesday, the seventh and eighth of Sivan), and these Halachos are relevant:Monday: This day is Yom-Tov for the local populace but weekday for the traveller. The traveller should don Tefillin and daven the weekday Tefillos. Other than that, he should not perform any Melocho, even in private.
- Likewise, for appearances sake, he should act as though it is Yom Tov, such as wearing Yom Tov clothing and attending Shule.
- Tuesday: This is the first day of Yom-Tov for the traveller but the second day for the local populace. The traveller observes Yom-Tov as usual; however, he omits the words “Zman Matan Toraseinu” in his Tefillos.
- Wednesday: This day is Yom-Tov for the traveller but not for the local populace. The traveller should recite the Yom Tov Tefillos and make Kiddush, but omit the three words “Zman Matan Toraseinu”. At the end of this day, the traveller recites Havdallah in private.
Whenever the traveller’s Tefillos are at variance with those of the local populace, he should daven discreetly and not call attention to the fact.
When it is Yom-Tov for the traveller but weekday for the local populace, the traveller may not instruct another Jew to perform Melocho on his behalf. In fact, if the traveller notices someone doing Melocho on his behalf, he must object. However, if the Melocho was not performed on the traveller’s behalf, or he didn’t know about it until after it was completed, he may benefit from the Melocho. Yizkor is recited together with the local community.