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Um… aren’t you forgetting something?

Posted on 05/10/2013 @ 05:08 PM

I recently read an article that compared Shavuot to a “forgotten stepchild.” The author lamented that many Jewish people don’t know Shavuot: don’t know what, how, or why we celebrate Shavuot.

Shavuot (literally ‘weeks’), which occurs seven weeks after Passover, marks the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is a celebration of Torah and education. Many Jews around the world stay up all night to study the Torah and other topics of interest to honor this special moment in our history. Religiously, it is known as one of the “shalosh regalim” - the three pilgrimage holidays so important that visits to the Holy Temple occurred on these dates.

Knowing its important connection to our history, why do so many Jews forget to celebrate Shavuot??

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur synagogues are crowded. On Simchat Torah we sing and dance with the Torah, and celebrate its ending and beginning. Almost every Jewish family I’ve met celebrates Passover in one way or another. Chanukah is religiously minor, but it is celebrated by even the most secular Jews. Purim, a relatively modern addition to the calendar, is widely marked by costumes, groggers and Hamentaschen.

Shavuot should be no less significant in our lives than these other holidays. It marks when the Jewish people received the Torah. In this moment we, the Jewish people, entered into our covenant with God. This relationship is a huge basis for our religious practice. Without Shavuot, when we received the Ten Commandments (and the Torah itself!), we wouldn’t practice the mitzvot which help to push us to dedicate ourselves to our religion.

As Jewish professionals, we should think of the ways we can make this holiday stand out more with our teens and families. Let’s “Ask the Big Question,” How do we give Shavuot the respect it deserves? The MyJewishLearning Shavuot page has a nice variety of ways to observe and basic facts about Shavuot – along with some great cheesecake recipes!

For me, I may not stay up all night to study the Torah, but I may push myself to appreciate that this holiday is a “yontif.” It’s different than the other days of the week. And it will not be the forgotten stepchild this year for me. Next week on Wednesday and Thursday, when you have your days off, remember why we have the time off. Remember that had we not received the Torah on Mount Sinai, we wouldn’t be the Jewish people we are today. What will you do to remember Shavuot?

Remembering to create this Shabbat Message was done by Danielle Hercenberg, Wisconsin Region Program Associate.

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