5/24/2012

Shabbat Bamidbar

Begins Friday 25th at 7.50 pm.

Shabbat ends, we light candles and
Festival begins Saturday 26th at 8.50 pm

Shavuot

Begins Saturday 26th at 8.50 pm

Sunday Morning Services 9.30 am

Monday Morbing services at 9.30 am

Festival ends at 8.52 pm

Shavuot is, in one way, the poor relation of Festivals. Pesach and Succot both last for 8 days (in the Diaspora) and have lots of customs and interesting things to do. Shavout in the Torah seems to be an afterthought, 49 days after Pesach and it is called Atzeret just like Shmini Atzeret, the sort of closing ceremony of Succot. Its original purpose was purely agricultural. The harvest started on Pesach with the Omer of barley. Shavuot marked the gathering of the wheat harvest. All early religions had important festivals in the early summer to pray for a good harvest.

But as the people moved away from the Land of Israel and agriculture became less fundamental to their lives the festival slowly took on a different character. Two thousand years ago, the fact that Shavuot coincided with the date that the Children of Israel arrived at Sinai meant that it now became the anniversary of the Torah, the national constitution. Wherever the Jews would wander or be driven they had their common traditions to keep their identity.

And four hundred years ago the Kabbalists in Safed initiated the custom of staying up all night to study the Torah as a sign of ones devotion to it. No Kabbalist worth his or her salt would dream of genuine spiritual progress without a profound commitment to Torah. It is like saying one is committed to literature without reading books. But on the other hand simply going through the motions of a religion without feeling and experiencing its rituals and ceremonies is like trying to understand American culture without knowing a word of English.

Many of us will be away this Memorial weekend. But wherever one is it is important to study, to read, to discuss, to find some practical way of showing that we care about our tradition.