If you haven’t read Shavuot 2020, the prelude, please read it first.
Our modern day Shavuot commemorates Matan Torah (The Giving of the Torah), yet in the Torah, Shavuot is only an agricultural holiday with no mention of Matan Torah or connection to it.
The Torah never says, celebrate a holiday of Shavuot for on that day I gave you the Torah.Rabbi Joshua ibn Shu’ib (1280-1340) – Sephardic Torah Commentator and Kabbalist
Additionally, the Torah does not provide a date for Matan Torah, so we don’t really know when it occurred. The rabbis chose the 6th of Sivan (on the Hebrew calendar) as the date.
The Torah does not give the date of Matan Torah [giving of the Torah] because the Torah should be new to us every day, as if it were given today.Rashi (1040 to 1105) – renowned Torah commentator
Every time I introduce Shavuot as an agricultural harvest festival in my shiurim (classes), I get some perplexed responses from Jews who are only familiar with the rabbinical version, (man-made Shavuot), featuring an all night Torah study, cheesecake and blintzes.
I’m into cheesecake and blintzes as much as the next Ashkenazi, but that’s beside the point.
In modern day Israel, Shavuot still retains it’s original meaning as a colorful Harvest Festival celebrating the bounty of the land. Agricultural settlements in Israel (moshavim and kibbutzim) showcase their abundant harvest with parades, music, dancing, farm fresh foods and harvesting ceremonies.
“Shavuot is a big and important event on our kibbutz, and lots of people come to our events from all over the country. Our celebrations include everything, and we put a special significance on our first wheat harvest. The adults of the kibbutz go out into the fields with sickles and scythes to cut and harvest the wheat. Afterwards, we have a huge dairy meal accompanied by dancing.”Kibbutz Nirim
In the Nesher suburb of Haifa hundreds participate in a first harvest festival on Shavuot which includes a children’s presentation, a farmers market selling cheeses, wine, and olive oil, workshops on basket weaving and wool processing, drum circles, a petting zoo, and donkey rides.
My humble opinion: I would much prefer a Harvest Festival over cramming classes unrelated to the earth’s bounty and eating supermarket cheesecake.
Why not get back to the real Shavuot by offering earth-based workshops? I can think of many that would fit the bill — native gardening, herbalism, hand-crafting, bee-keeping and a fresh smoothie bar!
Instead of supermarket food laden with fat and processed sugar, we could enjoy locally sourced baked goods and dishes made from foods that bless the land of Israel.
For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains springing forth; a land of wheat, barley, vines, fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarcity…Devarim/Deuteronomy 8: 7-10
A lively Harvest Festival every year that supports locally sourced food from sustainable farms, hand-crafters, mamma earth, our local economy and our health would be a breath of fresh air, so to speak. I vote for getting back to the roots of Shavuot, literally and spiritually.
©️ 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Chochmat Halev (wisdom of the heart) is my ner tamid (eternal light).