Saturday, May 26, 2012

Shavuot - What is it?

Have you ever heard of Shavuot? No? How about the Feast of Weeks? Or here's one you might know: Pentecost? Well, these are three different names for the same day. 

If you are like me, you may already know a little about Pentecost, but never have heard the other terms at all.  I spent most of my life attending Pentecostal churches, and I did not understand what Pentecost is! I thought it was an event that took place in the New Testament in Acts 2, where God gave us his Holy Spirit. That is a big part of it, but there is SO much more!!! Here is a little bit of what I have learned about Shavuot.

"Shavuot" is a Hebrew word that means "weeks". After Passover, seven weeks are counted out. The next day, the 50th day, is Shavuot. "Pentecost" is the Greek word for 50.  The first Shavuot took place at Mount Sinai, 50 days after the Children of Israel left Egypt.  An absolutely amazing thing happened.  God came down to the mountain! There was thunder and lightning, and the sound of a loud shofar blast that got louder and louder (can you imagine?). God descended on the mountain in fire, and the whole mountain was enveloped in smoke and it shook violently. The people were so afraid that they were trembling and would not come close. They sent Moses up to talk to God. And God talked to him in a voice! He told Moses what to tell the people, engraving His words on two stone tablets.  This was His covenant with the people of Israel! He wanted to be their God and He wanted them to be His people, set apart just for Him.

Since then, God's people have celebrated this event at Shavuot. When the Temple still existed, there was a special wave offering and sacrifices that took place.  This festival was one of the three "pilgrimage" festivals, when all of the men traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices and celebrate this special event.

Fast forward now to the New Testament, which is more familiar territory for many of us.  Jesus (Yeshua) had promised His followers that the Holy Spirit would come, and would give them power to be witnesses for him. In Acts chapter 2, the believers were all gathered in one place, and guess what? IT WAS SHAVUOT!  They were gathered there with many, many other Jews to celebrate the Festival of Shavuot. And again, an amazing thing happened! There was a sudden sound like the roar of a violent wind, which filled the whole place! Then, God's Spirit came down, and what looked like tongues of fire came and rested on each one of them (can you imagine?) They began speaking in different languages, enabled by the Spirit of God. This was such a commotion that a huge crowd gathered.  There were Jews from all the other nations there to celebrate Shavuot, and these people understood the languages they were speaking! Peter then spoke to them all and told them what was going on. About three thousand people became believers in Yeshua the Messiah as a result!

I just can't get over how incredible this is! The first Shavuot was fifty days after the crossing of the Red Sea, and freedom from slavery.  The Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was fifty days after the resurrection of the Messiah, who frees us from sin! At the first Shavuot, God engraved His words on stone for us.  In Acts 2, He sent His Spirit to engrave His word on our hearts.  In both instances, His presence came down in the form of fire, and His words were audibly heard.

There is much, much more to Shavuot than what I have written here; many more correlations, and much more amazing symbolism. I urge you to look into it for yourself. There is so much to learn about a God that has such a great love for us that He has an entire detailed plan that is taking place over the ages, just so that we can know Him!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mocha Coconut Cupcakes

Did you know the Mocha Coconut Frappuccino is back at Starbucks? So, this week when I was planning dessert for our Friday night Shabbat dinner, I decided to make mocha coconut cupcakes in honor of my favorite drink.  We ended up not eating dinner at home, but at a fish fry fundraiser for NJROTC, but I made the cupcakes anyway because they sounded SO good to me.  I found two different recipes online, but they looked a little complicated, and I wanted something easier.  So I made up my own.  I found an easy cake recipe from my BHG cookbook and altered it a little bit.  Here's what I came up with:

Mocha Coconut Cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
3 Tablespoons instant coffee (or 2 Tblsp. instant espresso if you can find it, which I couldn't)
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 egg
Dissolve instant coffee in the milk.  In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients.  Add the milk & coffee, butter, and coconut extract.  Beat in electric mixer on low speed until combined, then on medium for 2 minutes.  Add egg and beat for 2 more minutes.  Pour into pan prepared with cupcake papers, and bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Makes about 18 cupcakes.  Cool and frost.

Coconut Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 cup toasted coconut
Mix butter and some of the powdered sugar until smooth, adding more sugar a little at a time.  Add coconut extract and beat on medium high until smooth and fluffy, adding a tiny bit of milk or water if necessary.  Frost cupcakes and top with toasted coconut.