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.

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