Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Shavuot: An intimate connection...

I came across the following article:
Shavuot: the forgotten sister - Rabbis Round Table Israel News | Haaretz
Here are a few excerpts:
In more modern times, and in recognition of the contemporary lack of adherence to the festival that is found in America, many synagogues co-opted the borrowed concept of “confirmation,” that is a ritualistic acceptance of Jewish learning for teenagers, in order to fill the pews on Shavuot. But how can any of this compare to the imagery and ritual of Shavuot’s more popular sisters, Sukkot and Passover?
Herein lies the crux of the matter: when it comes to life, both religious and secular, ritual is king. Ritual reminds us, ritual concretizes us, ritual compels us; and in the absence of a truly captivating ritual, any celebration will eventually disappear.
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Don’t get me wrong, I love Shavuot, and if you ask me – the way to save it is through ritual! We need more synagogues and schools who host all-night learning sessions. We need more homes where children learn to bake the perfect cheesecake alongside their parent or grandparent. We need more talk about the Book of Ruth and the powerful narratives of the Jews-by-choice who enrich our holy communities. We need more ritual!
Anything less and our beautiful, forgotten sister will be lonely forever.


Here is my response to this article:

I like your suggestion about embracing the traditions of Shavuot.  However, I would like to suggest that the "forgotten" character of Shavuot makes sense and is, in a sense, part of the very fabric of the day.  Consider the lack of mention of the connection between Shavuot and the giving of the Torah in the text of the Torah.  The Torah even obscures the date on which the Torah was given (see Mes. Shabbat 86a-88a).

What this brings to mind is the classic connection between the giving of the Torah and the joining together of the bride and groom.  The true union of the bride and groom is something private, special, intimate.  Shavuot draws in those who truly love her.  One can also point to the ambiguity in the description of the Receiving of the Torah in Deuteronomy, 5:18, "Kol gadol v'lo yasaf."  Onkelos says this means the voice of Sinai never ceased, others, Rashi points out, translate it to have the opposite meaning: it did not continue,  i.e. there was never such a public spectacle/voice again.  The way to strengthen people's commitment to Shavuot, in my humble opinion, is through a commitment to the living breathing Torah throughout the year.