What's Shavuot?

I had no idea that there was a Jewish holiday called Shavuot when I was growing up in New York. I always knew about Chanukah and Pesach, the "High Holidays", a vague memory of hamantaschen on what must have had been Purim, but Shavuot? Never heard of it. Even after becoming religious in high school, it was hard to grasp.

Batya Medad,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7
I had no idea that there was a Jewish holiday called Shavuot when I was growing up in New York. I always knew about Chanukah and Pesach, the "High Holidays", a vague memory of hamantaschen on what must have had been Purim, but Shavuot? Never heard of it. Even after becoming religious in high school, it was hard to grasp.

Shavuot is the epitome of a spiritual, religious holiday. The name has two meanings. One is weeks, for the seven weeks between the beginning of Pesach and Shavuot. Shavu'a, week, comes from the same root as sheva, seven, the seven days in the week. Every night, from the second night of Pesach until Shavuot, we count up, not down; we count both the days and the weeks. For example, one night after the blessing I counted: "HaYom shlosha v'arbayim yom, shehem shisha shavuot v'yom echad ba'Omer." "Today is three and forty days, which are six weeks and one day of the Omer." Everyday the count goes higher, until we're ready for the next meaning of Shavuot.

Shavuot also means "oaths." It commemorates the day that we, the Jewish People, accepted the Law from G-d. "Na'aseh v'nishma." "We will do, and we will listen." That was the oath we swore as a People to G-d. We will do whatever You command, and we will listen. That means that we are buying the package, even though we have no idea what it contains.

This is the holiday during which we are required to read Megilat Ruth. Ruth's vow is the model for conversion to Judaism to this day. She told her mother-in-law, Naomi: "Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live, your People will be my People, your G-d, my G-d. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried; G-d will do it for me." (Ruth I, 16-7; my translation) Ruth pledges to follow Naomi to wherever she takes her and do whatever she commands.

Both these pledges bring us back to the instructions from G-d to Abram (the original name of Abraham) in "Lech Lechah": "Go, for your own sake, go! ?to the Land I will show you? and I will make you a Great Nation." (Bereishit [Genesis] XII, 1-2) We must listen to G-d and follow his instructions, live where and how he commands, even if we don't understand, even if we don't fully understand what He wants.

In today's difficult times, we must be confident, have faith, that it is going to be all right in the end. According to Rabbi Elchanan Bin Nun, the Chief Rabbi of Shiloh, we are now in the "setter madreiga" - the hidden part of the stairs. When we look at the past, we see a dangerous precipice, and when we look forward, we see a steep wall, too difficult to climb. There seems to be no where to go, neither up nor down. But if we persevere, have faith and keep going up, we will be rewarded with something very, very great.

"Na'aseh v'nishma."




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