The Holiday of Shavuot, as true for Sukkot and Passover, celebrates agricultural harvests, the wheat harvest, at this time. With Talmudic development of Judaism, the harvest of Shavuot was elevated to a celebration of the gift of the Torah. It became known as “Zman Matan Torahteynu”, the “Time of the Giving of our Torah”. And from the first time and forward, the giving of the Torah is renewed in our ritual celebrations on this unique holiday.
The sticking point is its identification as the time of the “Giving” of our Torah, thereby, indicating work to be done…by us! We have a choice to make. Just as we live in a world of yearly renewals of policies that affect every aspect of our lives, Shavuot is renewal time. We must choose to accept it, to receive the Torah.
We may think that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the renewal period, the time when Jews, who’ve been away for a while, or longer, can check back in. Well, yes and know…true enough. Just as Passover has echoes of Yom Kippur in that each deals with matters of pride and self-control, one through fasting, the other through eliminating chametz/ yeast/ symbolic of pride, so does Shavuot have its connection with the Days of Awe, and particularly the end of Sukkot, Simchat Torah, as we celebrate closings and openings, beginning anew the Torah cycle for the year. Each holiday, especially Shabbat, is a consciousness raiser, an opportunity to address the question HaShem has been broadcasting ever since the hide and seek Game with Adam and Eve, in calling out: Where Are you???
The answer given by Abraham, and later by Moses, and recommended by our sages, reflects the importance of being in and treasuring the opportunity, unique to each moment: Hineni! “I am here!”… to reenlist and recommit to the Torah, and community that is home to Torah, home to our Mitzvah system for responsible living, with gratitude for life and ever thankful for HaShem’s gift of opportunities to begin anew.
The Shavuot holiday predicated on our choosing to receive the Torah makes of us all, Jews by Choice. That is one reason we read the Book of Ruth on Day 2 of the holiday. Ruth the Moabite freely chooses the God of Israel and the people. How wonderful that 3 CBI people became Jews by Choice days before this holiday of choice!
Mazal Tov to Cheryl, Arleen and Sofia…showing the way on this holiday in which we all must ratify our choices and renew our premiums.