Monday, May 17, 2010

Shavuot is almost here!

Well, friends, Shavuot finally arrives tomorrow night, May 18, at sundown.

I hope that, since you have discovered at least 10 reasons to commemorate this festival, you will have a Chag Sameach, a Happy Holiday!

How will YOU be observing Shavuot this year?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot: Reason #10!!!

As if you needed yet another reason to celebrate this important festival, here is the ultimate reason: It allows us to celebrate the Torah and the Ten Commandments!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot: Reason #9

The Forgotten Holiday – Why?

Shavuot is, as I have said before, tragically ignored by many of our congregants. I have at least three reasons why that might be:

  1. Usually falls after the Religious School year, so we barely get to teach it to our students
  2. It doesn't hold the same emotional impact as Pesach, and it isn't celebrated in the home
  3. It doesn't include the same meaningful visual object as Sukkot

Do you have any other ideas of why we might not focus enough on Shavuot?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot: Reason #8

Shavuot and Social Action

Each holiday lends itself well to various Social Action themes and advocacy opportunities. Shavuot is no exception. With gratitude to the URJ Social Action Guide to Shavuot, here is some food for thought:

  • Economic Justice: In Leviticus, Shavuot is linked with the commandments of pei-ah (leaving crops at the corners of the field for the poor) and sh'chicha (leaving the fallen grain for the poor). Even as we celebrate the first fruits and the bounty of the land, we are to remember those in need. We are commanded to provide for the stranger, the orphan and the widow (Deut. 24:19). Hence, our rejoicing is incomplete unless even the poorest and most vulnerable members of society have enough to eat.
  • Environment: As we celebrate the summer harvest, we can strengthen our connection with the earth. In particular, how can we ensure that we live in an ecologically responsible manner? For instance, we can drive fuel-efficient cars, recycle, refrain from using harmful pesticides and herbicides and consume food grown in an environmentally responsible manner. As we make these choices in our personal lives, we can also advocate for environmental awareness in the broader community.
  • World Jewry: The entire Jewish community entered into the covenant at Sinai. Some say that "those who are standing here with us this day" refers to our ancestors at Sinai, while "those who are not with us here this day" refers to the Jews of future generations. The covenant is given to us all, reminding us to be concerned for Jews across the centuries and around the world, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot – Reason #7

Ready for the 7th Reason to Celebrate Shavuot?

We have the privilege of remembering our loved ones who have passed away in the ritual of Yizkor. This memorial service takes place 4 times throughout the year (not just Yom Kippur!).

Thus, the four times are:

  1. Yom Kippur
  2. Sukkot
  3. Pesach
  4. Shavuot

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot – Reason #6

This one is going to blow your mind – There are NO actual Mitzvot associated with the holiday!

Other than abstention from work, tradition includes no laws for this festival. Rather, there are many customs associated with it:

  • Eating dairy products (perhaps due to Song of Songs referring to Torah as similar to "milk and honey under your tongue" – Shir HaShirim 4:11). So, be sure to have some cheesecake, blintzes, and a milkshake to celebrate!
  • The Book of Ruth is traditionally read. Since Ruth is considered a convert to Judaism, she is heralded as someone who readily chooses to "accept Torah."
  • Decorating with Greenery, because of the connection to the harvest, as well as a midrash that teaches that Mt. Sinai suddenly blossomed with flowers in anticipation of the giving of Torah.
  • Confirmation – Reform and many Conservative congregations will often hold Confirmation ceremonies on or close to Shavuot for 10th graders. The celebration of Receiving Torah is a natural time to honor our students' continued learning of Jewish tradition.
  • Tikkun Layl Shavuot, an all-night study of Torah and other Jewish texts. Traditionally, The Tikkun Leil Shavuot ("Rectification for Shavuot Night") consists of
    • excerpts from the beginning and end of each of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible (including the reading in full of several key sections such as the account of the days of creation, The Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Shema)
    • The 63 chapters of the Mishnah.
    • Sefer Yetzirah (a Kabbalistic text),
    • the 613 commandments as enumerated by Maimonides

    • excerpts from the Zohar, the central text of Kabbalah.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot – Reason #5

The fifth reason to celebrate the wonderful festival of Shavuot!

Shavuot is Connected to the Harvest!

Shavuot was the first day to bring Bikkurim, First Fruits, as an offering to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Bikkurim were selected from the Seven Species known to grow in the Land of Israel:








Monday, May 10, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot! Reason #4

Need another reason to celebrate Shavuot? Check this one out!

Reason #4:

Concludes the Counting of the Omer

We count a Week of Weeks – (7 X 7 Days = 49 Days) starting on the 2nd day of Pesach. On the 50th Day, we celebrate Shavuot.

The Counting of the Omer symbolizes the time between our Exodus from Egypt and the receiving of Torah. Anticipation for this exciting moment is great!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot: Reason #3

Let's learn something new about Shavuot –

Reason #3:

A "Founding Member" of the Shalosh Regalim – the Three Pilgrimage Festivals

What are the other two holidays? Pesach and Sukkot

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot: Reason #2

As we continue our list, here is Reason #2 for why we should celebrate the festival of Shavuot:

Reason #2: Shavuot by any other name…

How many festivals have THIS MANY names?!?!

Chag HaShavuot ~ The "Festival of Weeks" (Exodus 34:22)

Chag Matan Torateinu ~ The Festival of the Giving of our Torah

Chag HaKatzir ~ The Festival of the Harvest (Exodus 23:16)

Yom HaBikkurim ~ The Day of First Fruits (Numbers 28:26)

Atzeret ~ Solemn Conclusion, the name given to the holiday by the Mishnah and the Talmud, due to its being the conclusion of the weeks after Pesach.

Pentecost – Because the holiday falls 50 days after Pesach, Hellenistic Greeks gave it this name, meaning Fiftieth Day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Shavuot – Reason #1


We are coming closer and closer to the tragically underestimated holiday of Shavuot, the festival on which we celebrate the Giving of Torah. Over the next ten days, I will be sharing my personal top ten list of reasons to celebrate this terrific, important holiday. Here we go!

Reason #1:

Z'man Matan Torateinu: The Time When We were Given our Torah

Shavuot celebrates the day on which we were given Torah, including the Ten Commandments, at Mt. Sinai.

It is noteworthy that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given at this time. Thus it is the giving, not the receiving, that makes this holiday significant.