Without a doubt Shavuot is the most ignored of our three Jewish festivals. It lacks the pomp and pageantry of Sukkot and the power of the Passover Seder. While there are some customs and ceremonies added, it just doesn't have the same pizzazz! Part of that might be due to the fact that the holiday frequently occurs after most afternoon Religious Schools have concluded for the year, with the students being deprived of opportunities to learn more about it and experience it. Some might suggest that the beautiful time of year makes sitting in synagogue the last thing one might prefer doing with their time. Let me make the case why Shavuot is important and deserving of your attention.
Shavuot was already being observed as an agricultural festival before it developed Jewish roots, as it marked the conclusion of the barley harvest. It does mark a momentous event in the history of our people - God's appearance before the Israelites on Mt. Sinai seven weeks after their exodus from Egypt. While we know this moment as the imparting of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, it officially marks the beginning of the path towards holiness through the teachings of the Torah. God commands us to be holy for God is holy, and while each of us might find that lofty goal unapproachable, the Torah is our guide book to enable us to incrementally become the best possible self we can become. Shavuot celebrates that relationship, but I don't think that we need to celebrate it for God's sake. God does not need tweets professing our love. Rather, we need to confirm to ourselves that we value our personal relationship with God and annually renew that relationship. That renewal date is Shavuot. The good news is that there are no forms to fill out, no background checks nor fees. All you need is the desire to become the best self that you can be.
Some of the additional features of Shavuot include an evening of learning Shavuot eve(I will be teaching at the JCC that evening), the re-enactment of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai on the first day by reading that Torah portion, and the chanting of the book of Ruth and Yizkor on the second day. When you add to that mix blintzes and cheesecake, what's not to like? This year Shavuot occurs on May 20-21. I look forward to you joining me in renewing our relationship with God, in addition to the yummy food!