As the Omer continues to be counted, we come to the third month on the biblical calendar. After the days of the Babylonian exile, this month took on the name Sivan, and is identified as such in Esther 8:9.
Not long after Rosh Chodesh, the counting of the Omer is concluded and we come to the Feast of Weeks. This festival is known by many names, including Yom HaBikkurim/ Day of Firstfruits (Num 28:26). Though it is called the Day of Firstfruits, it is not to be confused with the firstfruits offering that occurs during Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:9-14). They are related, but separate occasions. The early firstfruit offering consists of barley, while the later firstfruit offering of Shavuot is wheat.
After the joyous festivities of Shavuot, Jews returned to their homes and farms throughout the Land of Israel, yet the offering season was not completed. Shavuot was the grand opening of the season of firstfruits 1. Even today, the various crops grown in Israel are harvested at different times throughout the year. Therefore, as the summer progressed, a variety of crops were brought to the temple. Farmers were allowed to bring firstfruits from the seven species2 at their own time, even up until Sukkot.
The celebration of the harvest was not just a religious affair. With the days of the harvest came ethical demands upon Israel. Not only was Israel required to give their firstfruits and tithes to the priests of the Temple, but they also were required to leave the corners of their field to the poor and the sojourner (Lev 19:9, 23:22; Ruth 2). Also, any hired worker was to receive his wages the very day he labored (Lev 19:13). Yaakov expressed his contempt for the wealthy who defraud the poor when he wrote, "Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts" (James 5:4). To offer firstfruits, yet through dishonest means, was an affront to God.
Perhaps this is why we remember the giving of the Torah on Shavuot. The harvest of our labor has both a religious (temple offering) and ethical (caring for the poor) aspect to it. The two are inseparably linked together; we must love both God and man.
As the Master said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40, emphasis added)
1. Eliyahu Kitov, The Book of Our Heritage: The Jewish Year and Its Days of Significance, Vol 3, (Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1997), 885.
2. Deut 8:8 lists wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Honey (devash) likely refers to date honey, not bee honey, though the same word is used for both.