Sunday, June 12, 2005

97. Shavuot, part 1

(Interrupting the story, believe it or not.)

Tonight begins the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. Compared to its peers--Passover and Sukkot, the other two pilgrimage holidays, when Jews traveled to the Temple with their offerings--Shavuot gets much less press. It has no exciting food traditions, no meals under the stars or chocolate covered macaroons. (Or those wonderful little fruity sugar crescents.) Some people eat dairy and cheesecake to remind us that Israel is "a land of milk and honey," but I think it's really because every Jewish holiday has to have great dessert. Shavuot, as I learned not long ago, is really about the culmination of the seven weeks following Passover, which we count day by day. We've been in the desert, struggling, changing, learning. And then we receive an amazing gift, and have to figure out what to do with it. We stay up all night studying in preparation for the big event. The Israelites, so the story goes, fell asleep when they tried; maybe we'll learn something they missed.

I volunteered to chant Torah on Monday morning at sunrise. (But I think I'll go home first and get a few hours of sleep, since I have no desire to collapse in the service of this particular mitzvah.) As I sing while the night disappears, I will trace my own route from the dark place at the beginning of Passover back to a wide, bright expanse of wonder and questions, and be grateful for every step in the sand along the way.

1 comment:

alto artist said...

Have you seen the book "Counting the Omer" by Simon Jacobson? It's wonderful--it offers meditation and exercises for each of the 49 days. Evey year I mean to do the whole thing, but haven't yet managed.