On Sunday, Israel’s Samaritans—members of a Jewish sect that broke away around the 5th century BCE—gathered to celebrate what on their calendar was the first day of the holiday of Shavuot. The Samaritans recognize the authority of the Pentateuch but not that of the other biblical books or of the rabbinic tradition. Alongside a series of photographs of the holiday rituals, the Times of Israel writes:
[W]hereas Jews celebrated Shavuot last Wednesday, the Samaritans marked the festival, as always, on Sunday. The discrepancy comes from the verse which says that, “You shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, . . . seven complete weeks; until the day after the seventh Sabbath you shall count fifty days [until Shavuot]” (Leviticus 23:15-16).
Rabbinic Judaism interprets “the day after the Sabbath” as referring to the day after the first day of the Passover festival [on which Sabbath-like restrictions are observed]. However, the Samaritans understand it literally to mean Shabbat, so they begin counting their seven weeks from the Saturday during Passover. . . . [F]or the Samaritans, Shavuot is a seven-day festival, and as one of the three [annual] pilgrimage festivals, the faithful all gather on Mount Gerizim, near the West Bank city of Nablus, which they believe is God’s chosen site rather than Jerusalem.
From the nearly 1,000,000 strong Samaritan kingdom that existed in the Roman period, only 750 Samaritans populate the earth today. Half live in the Samaritan village on Mount Gerizim and the other half live in the Israeli city of Holon.
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