After the feast of Shavuot follow the summer months. It is a long haul through the summer heat from the spring festivals – concluded by Shavuot – to the autumn festivals. The Hebrew tells us of the nature of this time and our task.

In Israel, the main fig harvest is in summerIn Israel, the two main harvests are in spring and autumn. Summer is the time of ripening fruit: the main harvest of grapes, figs, peaches, apples and pears are gathered in late summer.* Summer is also the time of waiting for the autumn rains. If they fail, then starvation threatens by spring.

The Hebrew for summer qayits can also mean ‘summer fruits’. It derives from the word quwts meaning ‘to clip’ or ‘to awake’ or (by extension) ‘to watch’. A similar sounding word quts means ‘to end’.

In Israel, the grape harvest is in summerThese meanings are brought together in the Hebrew Bible.

The gap between the spring and autumn feasts corresponds to the gap between Moses bringing down the commandments from the mountain top the first time and the second time. In between, is the discovery of Israel worshipping the golden calf, the consequences (Moses breaking the tablets, the death of 3,000 in Israel and reorganisation in the camp) and the return by Moses to the mountain top to receive the commandments again.

So, it is no surprise that summer – the period of this long interlude – is a time of judgment in the Bible (Isaiah 16:9, 18:6; Jeremiah 48:32; Amos 8:1-2). In Amos 8:1-2, the Lord shows the prophet a basket of summer fruit (qayits) and then says that the end (quts) has come for “My people Israel” – a play on words. Ezekiel 7 speaks of the end (qayits) of Israel being awakened (quwts) against her.

Therefore, we need to make good use of the summer – to be ourselves awake and to gather food (Proverbs 6:8, 10:5, 30:25), the summer fruits, so that the wine and dried figs may be prepared. The summer tests us. Are we fruitful? As we shall see, the autumn brings the results.

*Figs also provide a smaller, early harvest in June as well as a pre-harvest of tiny immature figs in April/May that promise later fruitfulness.

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