Shavuot/ May 16 (evening)-May 18 (evening), 2021
Passover begins the Jewish historical year cycle with our freedom from slavery in Egypt. Fifty days later Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) celebrates God’s giving of the Ten Commandments (also seen as the entire Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew bible) to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, At this time, we entered into a covenant, based on Divine law, that we observe and renew to this day, thus giving purpose to our freedom.
Shavuot began in the Bible as an agricultural pilgrimage festival (like Sukkot and Passover) but its significance is much greater. Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of everyone in every generation standing at Sinai, just as everyone of every generation relives the escape from slavery in Egypt at the Passover seder. One of the major traditions of Shavuot is that of all-night study (Tikkun Layl Shavuot), to provide each individual person direct access to Jewish from the Bible and other sources. We read the Biblical Book of Ruth at this time because Ruth, as a convert, entered into her own personal relationship with God and the Jewish people. In a similar way, many Liberal congregations hold Confirmation services for students who are approximately three years past their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, reflecting ongoing commitment to Jewish learning.
Shavuot also is a time of great rejoicing, both in community in the synagogue and at home. Ashkenazi tradition includes the eating of dairy foods, such as blintzes and cheese cake, because the Torah is likened to milk and honey. Sephardic communities have more elaborate Shavuot dishes many of which also involve cheese but in different forms such as special rice and cheese pies and Turkish-style rice pudding (sutlatch).
A Blessing for Kindness on Shavuot, by Devon Spier
Between those who have much and those who have little, let us sprinkle kindness like grain seeds.
And let our kindness burst forth like a bountiful harvest.
Growing, life-giving, and available to every single one who seeks nourishment from the field.
And if we should find our self standing across from a stranger, or if we should happen to be a stranger in the company of one who is not, may we rise to meet the other with love in our hearts and the wholesomeness of good deeds.
And may our kindness sustain our selves and each other through this and every season of life.
Please note that the JFCS offices will be closed in observance of the holiday on Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18.