Friday, May 25, 2023 / 5 Sivan 5783

Shalom Chaverim,

Here are the ‘Top Ten’ reasons to try out Shavuot this year to see whether it might become your new favorite holiday!

  1. Cheesecake.

This holiday celebrates dairy delights.

It’s THE holiday for vegetarians. Breakout those lactose pills if you need them! Cheesecake, blintzes…happiness!

  1. Shavuot is ‘Counter-Cultural’…

Most people don’t celebrate Shavuot, or even know much about it at all. Yet, starting with the early kibbutzniks, secular Israelis have connected with the Biblical aspect of the holiday, which is about celebrating the ‘First Fruits’ of the spring harvest. Like wonderful hippie flower-children, elementary school kids dress in white and literally wear flowers in their hair in the days before the holiday. They decorate baskets filled with (preferably organic) spring fruits to give as gifts.

8… and ‘Trending’ at the same time!

In recent years, many Israelis (young and old alike) have joined in the Jewish mystical custom of staying awake all night on Shavuot eve to study the coolest and most-cutting edge aspects of Torah. (People who appreciate really good coffee are in their element too!) JOIN US TONIGHT for our study of To Be a Free People In Our Own Land Then & Now: Freedom’s Promises and Responsibilities in the Torah and Israel’s Declaration of Independence

  1. We celebrate ‘Choice’ on Shavuot

Shavuot features the Book of Ruth, the first post-Biblical ‘Jew-by-Choice.’ This holiday which commemorates the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai – and it’s acceptance by us, the People – reminds us that each of us who cares about being Jewish is still today a Jew-by-Choice: We have to choose to be Jewish for there to be Jews and the possibility of choosing a way to be Jewish…

  1. Connection

Shavuot is designed to help us make a mental and/or spiritual re-calibration. We express gratitude to God for the first-fruits of the spring harvest, realizing that all we have is, ultimately, a gift; And we celebrate the gift of Torah: a joyful and humble appreciation of all we know and aspire to know and the wisdom we have achieved…all which help us fathom the vast dimensions of knowledge and truth that we do not yet know but can begin to sense and appreciate and revel in being awestruck by…

  1. Diversity.

We note the ‘mixed multitude’ of us who came out of Egypt and have joined the Jewish People through the millennia, all of us who, through the ages, are Jews in this lifetime. Each of us as individuals in our community brings their own unique perspectives and understandings, experience, ‘baggage’, questions, and intuitions…for all the diversity and inclusiveness that is Judaism – we celebrate it on Shavuot!

  1. The Gift of Torah

Torah is what the mystics always claimed it is: ultimately, it’s what holds us together, the most impactful book of all time, a ‘blueprint’ and ‘3D printer’ for the world. We celebrate it today!

  1. Bread

Sourdough starter, anyone? Shavuot is an ancient festival to celebrate the wheat harvest! Bread is such a ubiquitous staple that we hardly notice it sometimes…but imagine life without it? No can do. Let’s break bread together this Shavuot!

  1. First Fruits

In ancient times we would pick our first fruit of the season and take it to the Temple amidst dancing and singing – a true celebration of the nature of life to renew itself, to persevere and seek and triumphantly (or surreptitiously) beget new life. Shavuot helps us look around outside and see that life is bustin’ out all over the place. Spring-feverish joy and energy – that’s Shavuot!

  1. Cheesecake

See #10 above. Life is a circle – eat more cheesecake!

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Michael Schwartz