Shavuot: All About Torah

May 12, 2021

Shavuot: All About Torah

Seven weeks after Passover, we celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. In the Bible, Shavuot was primarily an agricultural holiday, marking the end of the grain harvest and the beginning of a new agricultural season during which first fruits were brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. Later, Shavuot came to be associated with the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. On Passover, we were physically freed from slavery; on Shavuot, our freedom is given purpose—we are free so that we may serve God according to the Teachings contained in the Torah. We call Shavuot: Zman Matan Torateinu: The time of the giving of the Torah.

Shavuot is observed with worship and study. We read the book of Ruth, and observe a communal Yizkor (memorial service). We enjoy cheesecake and other dairy foods, since the Torah is likened to milk and honey.

An increasingly popular Shavuot tradition is the ‘tikkun l’el Shavuot,’ an all night study session. One explanation is that staying up all night indicates our readiness to accept the Torah. The Kabbalists believed that at midnight the heavens open and receive with favor the thoughts, study, and prayers of those who remain awake on the anniversary of the Revelation. Many of these ‘tikkun’ programs are done collaboratively – with synagogues and community organizations joining together to provide varied learning opportunities for participants. (Here is a link to register for Atlanta Rabbincal Association Tikkun l’eyl Shavuot held on the evening of Sunday, May 16:

For Jews, Torah Study (broadly defined, it includes all Jewish learning) is one of the most important activities. Through study, we engage in ideas, discern our values and learn our sacred history. This content transmitted from one generation to the next provides us with continuity and survival. Torah also inspires us to actions and deeds through which we sustain the world.

One of our daily prayers enumerates the most important mitzvot/commandments incumbent upon every Jew:

To honor mother and father

Perform acts of loving kindness

Attend the house of study daily

Show hospitality to strangers

Visit the sick

Provide for bride and groom

Pray with devotion

Make peace where there is strife

And the study of Torah leads to them all.

Torah is our foundation, our heart and our soul. May our Shavuot celebration help us to affirm the centrality of Torah in our lives, and continue to inspire us to live according to its teachings.

Chag Sameach

- Rabbi Beiner, JF&CS Community Chaplain