Shavuot 2020

שבועות Shavuot (meaning Weeks) originated as a harvest festival in the Torah and morphed (by rabbinical device) into a holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai.

On the second day of Pesach/Passover we begin Sefirat Ha-omer, (The Counting the Omer) — a 49 day (seven week) count down that ends on Shavuot, the 50th day.

Pesach was the time of the barley harvest and Shavuot was the time of the wheat (grain) harvest. The last day of each holiday marked the end of the harvesting cycle. The “first fruits and grain” (bikkurim) were also harvested on Shavuot and brought to the Temple.

Shavuot and Sukkot share common ground as the two harvest festivals, but only Sukkot retained its original flavor.

In the Torah, Shavuot is called by three names: 1) Chag Hakatzir / The Holiday of Reaping. 2) Yom Ha-bikkurim / The Day of First Fruits. 3) Chag HaShavuot / The Holiday of Weeks. [Shemot/Exodus 23:16, Bamidbar/Numbers 28:26]

How did it shift from a Harvest Festival in the Torah to something called Tikkun Leil Shavuot? Kabbalists developed the practice of Tikkun Leil Shavuot in the 16th century — consisting of all night Torah study to commemorate “Zman Matan Torateinu,” (the Time of the Giving of Our Torah).

Why is the term “giving of the Torah” traditionally favored over “receiving of the Torah?” What’s the difference between “giving of” and “receiving of?” Moses received it, then gave it to us. After the giving, it was up to us to receive it. You can be given a gift but not receive it. Interesting food for thought!

What happens on Tikkun Leil Shavuot? Food, coffee, water and beverages are provided for participants studying all night or any portion thereof. The Mekubalim (Kabbalists) believed the heavens opened at midnight for those who were awake. Personally, I need to be home by midnight before I turn into a pumpkin.

What are some of the Tikkun Leil Shavuot minhagim (customs)? At sunrise: Praying, meditating and immersion in a mikvah. For those who celebrate a second night: Reciting Psalms by King David, for it’s said that he was born and died on Shavuot. In Israel, Shavuot is only a one day (24 hour) holiday. Reform Judaism follows the Israeli minhag (custom).

In addition to classes, The Book of Ruth is read to honor her dedication to her mother-in-law and the Torah, around the time of the Shavuot harvest festival. (Stay tuned for my modern midrash on Ruth).

In Sephardic and Mizrachi custom, you’ll find a spread of savory vegetable pastries, enchusa de espinaka, fresh baked challah, huevos haminados, fresh fruit and sutlach — a creamy Turkish rice pudding.

Why the sweet dairy foods? In the Torah, Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) is described as “zavat halav u’d’vash” זבת חלב ודבש “flowing with milk and honey.”

Why is the Kabbalistic/rabbinical reinvention of Shavuot called Tikkun Leil Shavuot? תקון ליל שבועות — Leil is an abbreviated form of leilah (night) and Tikkun means repair.

What are we repairing? The ancient Israelites are said to have overslept on the morning the Torah was given (that always tickles me), so we study Torah all night as an act of “tikkun” (repair). I get a kick out of imagining them sleeping through their rooster alarm clocks and being late for the BIG BOSS’s tour de force. I picture Mr Slate from the quarry (as GD) yelling at Fred. (Flintstones 23:3). 😄

What is the appropriate greeting? “Chag Sameach” in Hebrew (Happy Holiday) or “Gut/Good Yomtov” in Yiddish — the standard Jewish Holiday greetings.

In the Chasidic community you will hear, “Kabbalat haTorah b’simcha u’pnimiyout,” meaning, “You should receive the Torah in Joy and in a way that speaks to your innermost self.”

Did you know you were there at the original Giving of the Torah, thousands of years ago? Midrash teaches that every Jewish soul yet to be born was present at the foot of Mt. Sinai when the Torah was given. Now, what I want to know is, were you behaving yourself or partying with the golden calf?

Next up: Shavuot, First Edition.

©️ 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Chochmat Halev (wisdom of the heart) is my ner tamid (eternal light). 

13 thoughts on “Shavuot 2020

  1. Pingback: Shavuot: First Edition! – The Wild Pomegranate

  2. freedmanfred

    I love your very unique way of introducing a very blessed jewish holiday my dear friend. You are a blessing in the world pandemic.
    With love,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Thank you bunches!! Love your feedback. You too are blessing and you bless me with the gift of your words. ❤️


  3. Phil Sutherland

    Chag Sameach! Being Ashkenazi, we love the cheesecake! This COVID-19 isolation made us miss this year. However, we were able to attend classes by Zoom. We heard some great speakers. Thank you for your take on Shavuot. I had not thought about its origins and that it was originally harvest festivals that was changed into the celebration of the giving of Torah. My take on the Giving, is that receiving is passive and only the giving the significant act because it took the heart of G-d to give the special gift to his people and the second giving coming from Moses, even after being very angry and having broken the original tablets containing the Ten Commandments and having to go back humbly before G-d to receive the second set of tablets and Torah. G-d demonstrated His tremendous forgiving heart by passing down the Torah even after the rebelliousness of His people. We received an amazing gift, but, it took the love of G-d for his people to bless us with Torah, which in my thinking is far more significant.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yaffa N

    It is hard to deal with Torah without a benevolent commentary such as your own! I do not trust the Sages or Rabbis of yesteryear. They hold no accountability to what my life is and what I have gone through. So, why should I let them be my authority, as they do not have my best interest at heart, but, you do! Therefore, your teaching touches my heart and I can trust you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Thank you for the inspiration and blessing of your words!! I agree the Sages and Rabbis of yesteryear are problematic, particularly for women. We don’t hear any women’s voices — we only know the women’s stories as they were presented through the lens of men. That applies to all the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All bibles were transcribed, translated and interpreted by a religious hierarchy of men with an agenda. I’m grateful to have you here on this trek through the biblical desert. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  5. revi

    So true that you can be given a gift and not receive it. The word in Hebrew for ‘to receive’ is Lekabel so I just realized that it is a root for so many words like ‘kabbalah’ and ‘kabbalat shabat’. You can be given but it makes no difference for you if you don’t receive. Thank you for this explanation and for the humor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Thank you for reading and commenting! Love your reflections and mention of the root words. Right on! Kabbalat Shabbat is receiving the Sabbath and the word Kabbalah means ‘receiving/to receive.’ Glad you enjoyed my humor. 😋


    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      The sages said we were given the Torah once, now it’s our job to receive it continuously by the way we live our lives. Thanks for your comment and the conversation! 🌻


    2. The Wild Pomegranate

      In another train of thought — Gifts are in the eyes of the beholder. We may sometimes be given a gift we don’t want to receive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s