A Tidbit of Torah – Shavuot 5784

Forgotten Holiday: Lost Holy Day

Over the years in the various communities I have served, the days leading up to the festival of Shavuot trigger a variety of questions including: “Rabbi, there’s a holiday this/next week?” “Rabbi, what’s this holiday all about anyway?” And a personal favorite, “Rabbi, is this an important holiday or a not so important holiday?”

My responses include such bits of information about Shavuot. Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals mentioned in the Torah and celebrated enthusiastically by our Israelites ancestors. Unlike the other two pilgrimage festivals, Shavuot does not entail a massive spring-cleaning effort nor the construction of any temporary housing. Perhaps it is this lack of physical preparations and the absence of tangible holiday related objects that contributes to Shavuot to being forgotten.

Forgotten along with the festival of Shavuot is the important historical event it commemorates. Revelation, the single most important event in Jewish history took place on Shavuot millennia ago. God descends upon atop Mt. Sinai, reveals the Divine self to the Israelites, enters a covenant with them and an eternal bond with us. The anniversary of that seminal moment in the young life of our people is what we celebrate on Shavuot.

Each year’s celebration is not only a reenactment of that incredible moment of divine-human contact, but an opportunity to explore our own relationship with God. Without the pageantry associated with Pesach and Sukkot and removed from the agricultural resonances of the festival marking the successful beginning of the harvest, the static interference of day-to-day life drowns out the divine voice that still echoes from Sinai and reverberates throughout the world. Shavuot is an opportunity to tune in to the Divine frequency broadcast and renew our covenant with God.

The Siddur, refers to this festival as Z’man Matan Torahtaynoo, “the season of the giving of our Torah,” the festival’s dominant theme. The Sages taught the enduring significance of the festival saying that, “while the giving of the Torah may have taken place at one moment in history – an event which we can commemorate – the receiving of the Torah by Jews in every generation must take place every day and everywhere.

Important holiday or not so important holiday? You decide.

Join us in celebrating receiving the Torah on Wednesday and Thursday, June 11 & 12 with services at 9:30AM. Yizkor memorial prayers are recited as part of the service on Thursday.

Chag Sameyach –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg