by Rabbi Marci Bellows, Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek, Chester
Shavuot is a holiday of gratitude for the gift of Torah. It is very easy to take the Torah, and all that it teaches us, for granted. Rather, let us allow ourselves to see that moment of revelation at Mt. Sinai as a moment when such fundamental ethics, truths, and lessons were passed down to our people, and thus to humanity. In the receiving of Torah, and through the stories contained within, we inherited essential values such as:
a. We are each created in the image of God
b. We are all one family, as we are all descended from the same two individuals.
c. Love your neighbor as yourself.
d. Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.
e. Love the stranger, for you were a stranger in the land of Egypt.
Shavuot is a holiday which celebrates the love of Jewish learning. The tradition of holding a Tikkun Layl Shavuot, an all-night study session of Jewish texts, encourages us to devote ourselves to the joy of lifelong Jewish learning. That learning can take place in a variety of ways, and through a variety of modalities (text study, art, meditation, music, discussion, etc.). Most importantly, we are reminded to cherish this hearty tradition with which we’ve been entrusted, to strive to understand it more fully and more deeply, and to treasure our encounters with it.
Shavuot reminds us that we are fortunate to be Jews. There are many times in our history (and, sadly, even now) when it has felt scary, shameful, or even dangerous to be Jewish. Shavuot, and its celebration of the revelation of the Torah and the covenant with God that it symbolizes, gives us the space to feel proud of our heritage. We are reminded of the time when the People of Israel chose to accept this covenant, and we read the beautiful story of Ruth choosing to live her life as a Jew. I pray that we each feel that we can stand proudly each and every day as Jews, that we can outwardly celebrate our ethical and moral traditions, and that we can boldly embody our mandates to work as God’s partner in the world.