Right after Memorial Day, we celebrate the second of our three major festival days, Shavuot. Shavuot is equal in importance with Passover and Sukkot. Whereas Passover celebrates our people’s liberation from slavery to freedom and Sukkot celebrates God’s protecting love and care for the Israelites crossing the wilderness by providing their needs and now ours, Shavuot commemorates God’s precious gift to us—The Revelation of Torah.
Sadly, Shavuot seems to be an afterthought holiday. It is only a two-day holiday in this country, whereas Passover and Sukkot are eight. The other two festivals have major, tangible symbols associated with them that are either edible, beautiful to behold, or pleasing to smell. Shavuot has no real symbols or events to do. Even the traditional dairy meal for the first day or the study session all night are just a thousand years or so old. Shavuot does have the Torah, but we see it every Shabbat.
Shavuot is important, precisely because it celebrate the revelation and giving of the Torah. Without the Torah, we would not be a people! The Torah is our direct theological, spiritual, and historical connection to God and the Jewish people. Our unique and special relationship to God and how and why God chose Israel to be God’s chosen and fulfill mitzvot is in Torah. It is God’s covenant–record of promise to be our God for all time. Our ancestors stood at Mount Sinai and witnessed first hand the revelation of the Torah. It became part of their life. As Midrash has it, we too, in spirit, were also standing at Sinai where we all received God’s sacred Torah. Shavuot precisely helps us to consciously remember our own presence at Sinai and the gift God gave us.
Come celebrate the giving of the Torah this year at TBS during the Festival of Shavuot. I want to especially invite you to our now annual MetroWest Tikkun Layl Shavuot Study and Service spectacular. This year it is at Temple Beth El in Sudbury on Tuesday, May 30th. More details to come.
Celebrate the richness and joy of Shavuot this 2017. Remember, you and I were there for the actual giving of Torah, back at Sinai.
Rabbi Laurence Bazer