Shavuot (May 2012)

On Sunday, May 27, Memorial Day weekend, we celebrate the festival of Shavuot. Many of us think of it as the last of the holidays, the time when, as scholar Arthur Waskow describes,

spring comes to a climax, hovers on the edge of summer. The world is perfect warm but not hot, ripe but not rotting…

According to the kabbalists, the Jewish people (like a bride) have met the Divine (the groom) at Pesach when they were brought to freedom; they are now ready for the marriage. Seven weeks will have transpired between the moment of betrothaland the moment of marriage. The wedding will take place on Shavuot and the Ketubah will be the Torah itself.

Sounds like a great metaphor, bride and groom, the people of Israel and the Divine, the Torah and the Ketubah. It is actually much more than metaphor; Shavuot represents the moment when the Jewish people accepted a view of the world that would change our lives forever, and would change the world forever, too. It is a moment in time worthy of commemoration and of celebration and that it why it is one of the three pilgrimage festivals mentioned in the Torah.

In ancient days, the people would come to Jerusalem and bring the first fruits of the spring harvest to the Temple. They would celebrate their bounty and the knowledge that God kept the annual cycle of the land bringing about its produce. For them it meant that all was right with their lives and with the world.

The name Shavuot means “weeks,” symbolizing the completion of seven weeks from the celebration of Passover. While Passover, with its home Seder, Chanukah, with the lighting of the menorah and the eating of latkes, and Shabbat with its Shabbat dinner, all have a very clear home ritual, Shavuot — the celebration of the Jewish people receiving Torah — has communal synagogue emphasis. It is a time we come together and hear the Ten Commandments read, a time to reflect and celebrate our collective mission as a people, a time to rejoice in the values that have guided us throughout the centuries.

Please join us on Sunday morning, May 27 at 10:30 a.m. as we joyfully celebrate the Festival that has brought the world the laws of a civilized society.

Rabbi Jeffrey Bennett