6 Sivan 5773 / May 14-15, 2013
All are invited to our Shavuot Services and Program.
Erev Shavuot Service: Tuesday, May 14 at 6:00 pm
Tikkun Layl Shavuot: Tuesday, May 14 at 7:00 pm - supper and study (reservations required)
Shavuot Morning Services: Wednesday, May 15 at 7:45 am - Yizkor Only Service /10:00 am Shavuot Service including Yizkor
Shavuot is a Hebrew word meaning "weeks" and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Shavuot, like so many other Jewish holidays began as an ancient agricultural festival, marking the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. Shavuot was distinguished in ancient times by bringing crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Shavuot, also known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, dates from biblical times, and helps to explain the holiday's name, "Weeks." The Torah tells us it took precisely forty-nine days for our ancestors to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai (the same number of days as the Counting of the Omer ) where they were to receive the Torah. Thus, Leviticus 23:21 commands: "And you shall proclaim that day (the fiftieth day) to be a holy convocation!" The name Shavuot, "Weeks," then symbolizes the completion of a seven-week journey.
Special customs on Shavuot are the reading of the Book of Ruth, which reminds us that we too can find a continual source of blessing in our tradition. Another tradition includes staying up all night to study Torah and Mishnah, a custom called Tikkun Layl Shavuot, which symbolizes our commitment to the Torah, and that we are always ready and awake to receive the Torah. Traditionally, dairy dishes are served on this holiday to symbolize the sweetness of the Torah, as well as the "land of milk and honey".
From the website of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Bring Shavuot Home With You!
Ideas from Shaaray Tefila's Festival Committee:
both the grain harvest, and the day that Moses received the Ten Commandments on
Mount Sinai. It also marks the
conclusion of the counting of the Omer. For our ancestors, Shavuot was one of the three pilgrimage festivals. They would gather their first fruits and
march to Jerusalem in a grand procession.
Baskets were woven with gold and silver, oxen were gilded and festooned
with garlands, and there was much singing and dancing and festivity. Think of how much fun it would be to actually
do this lovely procession with your family and your neighbors.
But alas, we live in New York City, and we aren’t going to
march to Jerusalem with decorated oxen.
What can we do instead that will make this holiday come alive for us?
There are no actual requirements regarding this
festival. You don’t have to do
anything. But don’t let that fool
you. If you do nothing, you are letting
this lovely festival slip through your fingers.
No requirements mean you can be free with what you choose to
do. Choose to do something that is
meaningful and joyful for you.
Tradition dictates that people do a number of things on Shavuot:
The reading of a liturgical poem
A dairy meal
The Book of Ruth
Decorating with greenery
All-night Torah study
The Festival Committee has examined these customs and we have expanded
on them. If you want to read a
liturgical poem with your family, by all means do so. A dairy meal is easy and
fun. It usually consists of blintzes and
cheesecake, which everyone likes. The
Book of Ruth has many scenes that describe the grain harvest, and it’s also
about Ruth, a Moabite, becoming a member of the Jewish people, which means
embracing the Torah. The truth is that no one knows on what day
the Torah was given, but it was
decided to add that aspect to Shavuot
as Jewish life transitioned from agrarian to urban.
What else can New Yorkers do that would make this holiday come to life?
- You can camp out, just as our forebears did at
Mt. Sinai. Drive somewhere where you can
camp, climb a mountain, and camp out.
That more than anything might bring the ancient spirit of the giving of
the Torah to life.
- If you want to stay home, bake some bread in
honor of the grain harvest.
- Get yourself out to the country and visit an orchard
or gather early wildflowers.
- Give out Ruth Awards. Ruth was known for her kindness. Create an award for acts of kindness in your
- Have that dairy meal, but make it a pizza and an
ice cream social.
study is always stimulating, but if you want a modern spin on that, try a movie
night. Get a bunch of Jewish-themed
movies such as Hester Street or Crossing Delancey, and there are scores of
Israeli movies you can get as well. A
movie night with pizza and ice cream can only be fun and it could start an
annual tradition. Remember to keep a
Jewish theme and include some discussion.
For activities to do with children, check out the following web sites
that have easy crafts projects: