We are on the cusp of Shavuot, the festival that commemorates God’s Revelation at Mt. Sinai that led to our receiving the gift of the Torah. Between reading the description of this event in the Torah and viewing Cecil B. DeMille’s magnum opus, The Ten Commandments, we should be impressed. But Shavuot is not about dynamic special effects; rather it is about receiving the Torah.
Shavuot lacks the glamorous appeal of other celebrations, as the rituals and customs associated with it are less attractive to some. We study holy texts all evening in anticipation of the re-enactment of the receiving of the Torah, we read the Revelation in the Torah on the first day, we eat dairy foods, we chant the book of Ruth on the second day as well as Yizkor, and that’s it. Shavuot lacks the pomp of Sukkot, the power of the Passover Seder and the lighting of the Chanukah menorah. Some people might propose that Shavuot hire a public relations firm! I don’t think so, and here’s why.
God gave the Torah to the Jewish people as a gift, but it had a requirement, or more specifically, 613 requirements. The best way to celebrate Shavuot is to affirm our commitment to the Torah. The massacre at the Tree of Life and subsequent anti-Semitic acts might cause people to shy away from their activity in the Jewish community. That’s how anti-Semites win, and I for one won’t let that happen on my watch. The way to combat anti-Semitism is to call it what it is in uncertain terms, and, become even more involved in the Jewish community. Not doing so gives evil a posthumous victory, or, as Elie Wiesel so aptly put it in his report to President Jimmy Carter in his capacity as chair of the US Holocaust Commission on September 27, 1979, “a ‘terrifying curse’ with its own punishment”.
Shavuot is a time to celebrate being Jewish, and there are no calories in cheesecake eaten during the holiday. We need to revel in our holidays, drawing strength from each other. I encourage you to attend synagogue services on Shavuot. That’s what it means to be Jewish. Mir Zeinin Do! We are still here!