You say Shavuot, I say Shavuos…
So… I really wanted to riff off Ben’s last post, since I have so many thoughts on and trouble with the word FEAR… In fact, when I was in Jerusalem on my JMI trip we spent an hour with a Yeshiva boy simply debating that word… So I definitely want and need to get back to that. Stay tuned!
But then this weekend I experienced my first Shavuos and so of course, I have to write about it… It was magnificent! And given the connection with my trip to Israel and the JMI guys, I am posting this blog on both of my “Jewish themed” sites… This one and at This Year In Jerusalem.
More than 3300 years ago, the Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, and so the holiday of Shavuos celebrates that.
“The word Shavuot means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot.” (Chabad.org)
I also counted my first Omer this year, and the prayers and meditations were quite remarkable. What great and inspiring daily lessons. I really need more of that.
“The giving of the Torah was a far-reaching spiritual event—one that touched the essence of the Jewish soul for all times. Our sages have compared it to a wedding between G‑d and the Jewish people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day G‑d swore eternal devotion to us, and we in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him.”
So the story says that many Jews over slept and slept through the giving of the Torah, so one of the customs on this two-day holiday is to stay up all night and study… not to miss the wisdom again!
Thus, with the encouragement of my friend Jonah, the knowledge that I would get to see and hear my friend Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld and learn from some other great teachers, like Rabbi Denbo, I hopped into the car at 9 pm and first headed into the hood of Pico/Robertson, where I was prepared to hang out into the wee hours of the night. While I did not stay all night long… I will definitely stay over next year… I did go until about 2:30 am and then made it to Makor HaChaim at 3 am… No Sushi, Bob… but a good class!
The streets of Pico/Robertson were alive and so were our souls.
Community… This is the first thing that struck me… and perhaps was the most powerful. The community is something beyond just me… beyond just one person… A strong, caring and beautiful community is so vital and necessary. To be with others, to share with others is essential for us human beings. It gives me great comfort and strength.
I loved seeing people of all ages… Parents and kids… young couples… older couples… all sharing love and a love for learning and Judaism. Amazing!
It was such an incredible evening on so many levels. All of the Shuls were open, it seemed… and any open space was filled with teachers and talkers and those wanting to learn… and not just high fallutin’, esoteric things… but funny, practical and inspiring life lessons.
The highlight for me was when Shlomo lead a group of us to a parking lot by AISH, where we grabbed folding chairs and made a circle, similar to our first night in Jerusalem, when we walked to the Kotel at two in the morning and had an impromptu class. It was powerful and beyond inspirational… and so was this one.
Shlomo continued on the path of his earlier class, about happiness… and how we need to get up every morning ready to live and fulfill our dreams and do what we are here to do. He talked about screening two movies when we die… that are watched in front of EVERYONE… all of our loved ones… One movie is the life we led… the other is the life we could have led… With hints of the great Defending Your Life, I had a potent wake up call and realization… So much to do… so much to accomplish… and I want to make sure I make the most out of that second film.
So lessons on life… laughs… amazing camaraderie… and Cheesecake…
Here is a good encapsulation on why we eat dairy on Shavuos…
Nights like this inspire me… make me so proud to be Jewish… and make me want to learn more… so much more… to learn as much as I can… and I will. I am jazzed to explore… to dive in more.
So thank you, my friends… and thank you, Shavuos… I am already longing for you.