web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘shavuot’

Rosh Hashanah 2013 – Pain or pleasure?

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The Torah tells us very little about Rosh Hashanah, not even its name. The three harvest and pilgrim festivals are named, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukot. These were the main focal points of national Jewish life in Biblical times, when as many as possible gathered in Jerusalem and attended Temple ceremonies. The Torah keeps on reiterating how they are supposed to be happy occasions, time to eat, drink, be merry, and share. Yom Kipur is the single Biblical holiday devoted to personal introspection, a serious and painful experience, physically and spiritually.

But when it comes to Rosh Hashanah, all we have to describe it is, “The first day of the seventh month is a Sabbath of remembering and blowing (the shofar)”! (Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29) It is up to the Oral Law to tell us more. The name we use universally nowadays, the New or rather the Head of the Year, came into Judaism much later than the Bible.

So I wonder, where does Rosh Hashanah fit in on the scale of pain and pleasure? Is it a happy, joyful festival like the other three, or is it painful and serious like Yom Kipur? Is it a self- analytical moment in which our very existence is examined and justified, or is it a mystical occasion when we should try, through ecstasy and experience, to get as close to Heaven as we can? Is it a case of “turn from evil and do good” or “do good and turn from evil”?

There is an alternative option, that it is a mixture of both. Just like good chocolate, it has salt as well as sugar. Throughout the history of human intellectual civilization we have always been expected to choose, to decide which one is right. Should we be happy or sad? Should we be enjoying life or suppressing and disciplining? Should we be rational or emotional? Should we be individuals or a community? Perhaps they are both right.

The Western philosophical tradition likes to be precise. It has no time for fuzzy combinations. Either you are Stoic or an Epicurean, an Aristotelian or Platonist, a Greek or a Roman, a Christian or a Muslim, a rationalist or a mystic, a capitalist or a socialist, a Freudian or a Jungian, a person who wants to have fun or a killjoy.

But surely we are a mixture of different ideas, opinions, experiences and feelings. So is Judaism. That’s why we can never agree on anything. Do we have to be scholars or populists, legalists or fabulists, have analytical minds or great memories, prefer gemarah or midrash, be Chasidim or Mitnagdim, Sefardi or a Ashkenazi, strict or lenient? Why can’t we combine lots of different elements and move in and out of different moods and situations?

History plays a part, of course. Zechariah was ready to scrap all the sad fast days and turn them into joyful celebrations. But then came years of oppression and suffering and exile and the number of sad days increased. Once we were exiled from Jerusalem, our liturgy overflowed with sadness, alienation, loss, and woe. Now we have penthouses overlooking the Old City, with swimming pools and saunas. Once Ashkenazi and Sefardi prayed in different worlds; now we are next-door and often visit each other, pray with each other and dance with each other, let alone marry each other. Once Lithuanians placed bans on Chasidim, now they imitate them. Rav Ovadia Yosef once implored his followers to stop dressing in black Ashkenazi gear, now his sons looks like nineteenth century Viennese doctors. Blurring the lines can be good. We should embrace it.

So historically we refer to the first ten days of the month of Tishrei as Yamim Noraim, Awesome Days, serious days, or the Ten Days of Repentance. Heavy days with much longer services than normal, lots of additional poems, much breast-beating and tears of contrition, and the expectation that being found unworthy we will be condemned in ten days to Heavenly punishment. Yet there is another side. We sit down to huge banquets. Our tables are laden with goodies. We dip apples into honey and wish each other a sweet year. We get hold of as many exotic fruits as we can to symbolize good things, and to be able to thank God “who has kept us alive and enabled us to enjoy this moment.” We buy new things and wear our best clothes. We are treated to the sounds of the shofar, and we go down to the water to remark on our never stepping into the same river twice (I bet you never thought of that association with Tashlich).

We can be happy one moment and reflective the next. That, according to the Talmud, is why we break glasses at weddings. It is why we thank God for the bad as well as the good, and vice versa. It is why we celebrate life and we record death. It is why we work but also rest, why we eat but also refrain. The more we do, the richer our lives. But the more we overindulge the less rewarding and enjoyable they become. Unless you add salt, the chocolate cloys. Unless you enjoy life and look on its bright side and remember your good fortune, however modest, the less significant each moment becomes.

Rosh Hashana has no Biblical name because it is sandwiched between the extremes of the delightful pleasures of harvests and the self-denial of Yom Kipur. It stands for the golden mean between them, the best of both harvest festivals and serious self-analysis.

Pain or pleasure? Yes. We all experience it when we look back at our lives, let alone the past year. There are things we did that give us a sense of success and satisfaction. And there are things we did that we regret, wish we had done differently or better, that cause us pain. It’s precisely that combination of the two that Rosh Hashanah reminds us of.

May we all have a sweet year.

The Deeper Meanings of Shavuot

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Based on the Jewish Sages.

1.   Shavuot (Pentecost) was, originally, an agricultural holiday, celebrating the first harvest/fruit by bringing offerings (Bikkurim-ביכורים) to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Following the destruction of the second Temple and the resulting exile in 70 AD - which raised the need to entrench Torah awareness in order to avoid spiritual and physical oblivion – Shavuot became a historical/religious holiday of the Torah.  The Torah played a key role in shaping the U.S. Constitution and the American culture, as well as the foundations of Western democracies.

Shavuot is celebrated by decorating homes and houses of worship with Land of Israel-related crops and flowers, demonstrating the 3,500 year old connection between the Land of Israel (pursued by Abraham), the Torah of Israel (transmitted by Moses) and the People of Israel (united by David).  Shavuot is the holiday of humility, as befits the Torah values, Moses (“the humblest of all human beings), the humble Sinai desert and Mt. Sinai, a modest, non-towering mountain.  Abraham, David and Moses are role models of humility and their Hebrew acronym (Adam - אדמ) means “human-being.”  Humility constitutes a prerequisite for studying the Torah, for constructive human relationships and a prerequisite to effective leadership.

Shavuot – a spiritual holiday – follows Passover – a national liberation holiday: from physical liberation (the Exodus) to spiritual liberation/enhancement (the Torah), in preparation for the return to the Homeland.

2. The holiday has 7 names: The fiftieth (חמישים), Harvest (קציר), Giving of the Torah (מתן תורה), Shavuot (שבועות), Offerings (ביכורים), Rally (עצרת) and Assembly (הקהל).  The Hebrew acronym of the seven names is “The Constitution of the Seven” - חקת שבעה.

Shavuot reflects the centrality of “seven” in Shavuot and Judaism.  The Hebrew root of Shavuot (שבועות) is the word/number Seven (שבע - Sheva), which is also the root of “vow” (שבועה – Shvuah), “satiation” (שובע – Sova) and “week” (שבוע Shavuah). Shavuot is celebrated 7 weeks following Passover. God employed 7 earthly attributes to create the universe (in addition to the 3 divine attributes).  The Sabbath is the 7th day of the Creation in a 7 day weekThe first Hebrew verse in Genesis consists of 7 words. The 7 beneficiaries of the Sabbath are: you, your son and daughter, your male and female servants, your livestock and the stranger.  God created 7 universes – the 7th hosts the pure souls, hence“Seventh Heaven.” There are 7 compartments of hell. There are 7 basic human traits, which individuals are supposed to resurrect/adopt in preparation for Shavuot. 7 key Jewish/universal leaders - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aharon, Joseph and David – are commemorated as distinguished guests (Ushpizin in Hebrew) during the Tabernacle holiday, representing the 7 qualities of the Torah7 generations passed from Abraham to Moses. There are 7 species of the Land of Israel (barley, wheat, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date/honey. In Hebrew, number 7 represents multiplication (שבעתיים–Shivatayim.  Grooms and Brides are blessed times. There are 7 major Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Tabernacles, Chanukah, Purim, Passover and Shavuot); 7 directions (north, south, west, east, up, down, one’s inside); 7 continents and 7 oceans and major seas in the globe; 7 world wonders7 notes in a musical scale; 7 days of mourning over the deceased; 7 congregants read the Torah on each Sabbath; 7 Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Abigail, Choulda and Esther); 7 gates to the Temple in Jerusalem; 7 branches in the Temple’s Menorah; and 7 Noah Commandments.  Moses’ birth and death day was on the 7th day of Adar.  Jethro had 7 names and 7 daughtersJoshuaencircled Jericho 7 times before the wall tumbled-down.  Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles) last for 7 days each. The Yom Kippur prayers are concluded by reciting “God is the King” 7 times.  Each Plague lasted for 7 days.  Jubilee follows seven 7-year cycles. According to Judaism, slaves are liberated, and the soil is not-cultivated, in the 7th year. Pentecost is celebrated on the 7th Sunday after Easter.

3.  Shavuot is celebrated 50 days following Passover, the holiday of liberty.  The Jubilee– the cornerstone of liberty and the source of the inscription on the Liberty Bell (Leviticus 25:10) - is celebrated every 50 years. Judaism highlights the constant challenge facing human beings: the choice between the 50 gates of wisdom (the Torah) and the corresponding 50 gates of impurity (Biblical Egypt).  The 50th gate of wisdom is the gate of deliverance.  The USA is composed of 50 states.

4.  Shavuot sheds light on the unique covenant between the Jewish State and the USA: Judeo-Christian Values.  These values impacted the world view of the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers and the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, the abolitionist movement, etc. John Locke wanted the 613 Laws of Moses to become the legal foundation of the new society established in America. Lincoln’s famous 1863 quote paraphrased a statement made by the 14th century British philosopher and translator of the Bible, John Wycliffe: “The Bible is a book of the people, by the people, for the people.”

5.  Shavuot is the second of the 3 Jewish Pilgrimages (Sukkot -Tabernacles, Passover and Shavuot – Pentecost), celebrated on the 6th day of the 3rd Jewish month, Sivan.  It highlights Jewish Unity, compared by King Solomon to “a three folds cord, which is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  The Torah - the first of the 3 parts of the Jewish Bible – was granted to the Jewish People (which consists of 3 components: Priests, Levites and Israel), by Moses (the youngest of 3 children, brother of Aharon and Miriam), a successor to the 3 Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and to Seth, the 3rd son of Adam and Eve.  The Torah was forged in 3 mannersFire (commitment to principles), Water (lucidity and purity) and Desert (humility and faith-driven defiance of odds). The Torah is one of the 3 pillars of healthy human relationships, along with labor and gratitude/charity. The Torah is one of the 3 pillars of Judaism, along with the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

In Hebrew: ‘Board’

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

לוּחַ Tradition has it that חַג הַשָּׁבֻעוֹת- the Shavuot festival – marks the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

And the Torah – הַתּוֹרָה- was given on tablets – not the kind you swallow (that’s a כַּדּוּר), but the kind made of stone.

The word the תורה uses for tablets is לֻחוֹת, with one tablet being a לוּחַ – a masculine noun, despite its looking feminine in the plural form.

Modern Hebrew takes the word לוח and uses it to mean board, such the one teachers write on.

So we’ve got:

פַּעַם, הַמּוֹרָה הָיְתָה כּוֹתֶבֶת עַל הַלּוּחַ עִם גִּיר. It used to be (literally, once), the (female) teacher would write on the board with chalk. Here are modern varieties of the educational לוח:

לוּחַ מָחִיק erasable board (a whiteboard) לוּחַ חָכָם smartboard לוח has many other meanings, including control panel, calendar and wooden plank. I said that לוח’s meaning in Biblical Hebrew is tablet. The kind of tablet pictured to the left, however is called, in Hebrew, a טַבְּלֶט

Visit Ktzat Ivrit.

Highway Construction Uncovers Spectacular 1500-Year-old Mosaic

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Excavations on the route of a new superhighway north of Be’er Sheva have uncovered a spectacular 1,500-year-old mosaic in the field of a kibbutz, providing vacationers for those with an extended Shavuot holiday to view the latest discovery.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Cross-Israel Highway Company, which operates “Kvish 6,” or Highway 6,  is opening  the excavation free of Charge on Thursday morning until noon, when schools and man Yom Ha’atzmaut government offices are closed as an extra day off following Shavuot. The Jewish holiday, also known as Pentecost, is celebrated only one day in Israel but two days outside the country.

The colorful dating to the Byzantine period between the 4th and 6th centuries was exposed in recent weeks in the fields of Kibbutz Bet Kama, located approximately 15 miles north of Be’er Sheva and 50 miles south of Tel Aviv.

During the Byzantine period Jewish and Christian settlements in the region were located next to each other. A synagogue and ritual bath (mikveh) were exposed in two nearby ancient Jewish communities

Before road builders can start getting ready to pave the extension of the highway from north of Beit Kama to a junction only 10 miles north of Be’er Sheva, excavations are carried out to determine if there are historical treasures underground. The archaeological site covers 1.5 acres on kibbutz farmland.

Several astounding finds already have been declared by the IAA, but the mosaic is one of the most spectacular of its kind in the country.

The main building at the site was a large hall 12 meters long by 8.5 meters wide and its ceiling was apparently covered with roof tiles. The hall’s impressive opening and the breathtaking mosaic that adorns its floor suggest that the structure was a public building.

The well-preserved mosaic is decorated with geometric patterns and its corners are enhanced with amphorae – jars used to transport wine – a pair of peacocks, and a pair of doves pecking at grapes on a tendril. These are common designs that are known from this period; however, what makes this mosaic unique is the large number of motifs that were incorporated in one carpet.

Pools and a system of channels and pipes between them used to convey water were discovered in front of the building. Steps were exposed in one of the pools and its walls were treated with colored plaster, known as fresco.

Archaeologists in the Antiquities Authority are still trying to determine the purpose of the impressive public building and the pools whose construction required considerable economic resources.

The site seems to have consisted of a large estate that included a church, residential buildings and storerooms, a large cistern, a public building and pools surrounded by farmland. Presumably one of the structures served as an inn for travelers who visited the place.

Graffiti at Yale Threatens Arson Attack on School’s Jewish Center

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Graffiti scrawled in a bathroom in a Yale University science building threatened an arson attack on the Slifka Center for Jewish Life on the campus.

The graffiti was discovered late last month but was first reported in the local media on Tuesday. A Slifka Center board member said the news of the graffiti was not released to the public sooner in order to allow the police to do some investigation quietly.

The exact wording of the graffiti has not been released, but it reportedly threatened an attack for May 16, the second day of the Shavuot holiday.

Police in New Haven, Conn., and the FBI are investigating, the New Haven Register reported.

“This is a very disturbing incident for a community such as ours, in which tolerance of all races, religions and points of view is a fundamental value,” Yale Vice President Linda Koch Lorimer said in a statement. “A threat to any community within our university is a threat to us all.”

SlifkaCenter programs have continued on schedule, and upcoming events including Shavuot programs have not been altered.

“Difficult times can serve to remind us of our many blessings,” a statement issued by the center said. “Slifka Center is fortunate to be a vibrant hub of Jewish and interfaith life within a welcoming community, in which incidents such as this one are very rare.”

Anglos Lead Tel Aviv’s Return to Tradition

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

For many Tel Avivians, this past Shavuot seemed different. More than just another day to hit the beaches, and maybe indulge in some cheesecake, Israel’s “White City” was dotted with groups celebrating the religious and spiritual aspect of the seminal holiday.

On the city’s newly rebuilt Kikar Habima, a group of Tel Avivians gathered to honor the Jewish tradition of studying into the night by discussing topics like the role of spirituality in Zionism. Organized by a group of young Anglo professionals called Jewish National Initiative, the intent of the Shavuot “Limud” was to offer tradition-minded residents of the city an opportunity to engage Shavuot in a fresh and spirited way.

“JNI is about rejuvenating Zionism by reconnecting it to the great tradition of Judaism,” says JNI Programs Director Daniel Fink. “We’re finding that Tel Avivians are really hungry for this — as are many Jews around the world, Israeli or not.”

The North Central Synagogue and Center for international and Israeli-Jewish life in the heart of Tel Aviv similarly celebrated Shavuot late into the night, with learning sessions in both English and Hebrew. The sessions drew more than 100 people.

Among other notable new nodes of Jewish life in Tel Aviv is a Shabbat initiative targeted to young olim (new immigrants). Called White City Shabbat, its organizers seek to create a social scene that extends beyond Tel Aviv’s famed clubs and discos, and into the synagogue. It’s not uncommon for a White City Shabbat event to gather more than two hundred people, who celebrate together over a traditional kosher meal.

Jay Shultz, the founder of White City Shabbat, attributes the success of the weekly gathering to a groundswell in renewed interest, driven in part by a growing trend of aliyah among young committed Jews.

“Sabras [native-born Israelis] see what’s going on here and they see something different,” says Shultz. “They see an opportunity to be social, to meet people, to get involved in a Jewish way. They love it, we love it, and that’s why it’s growing.”

 

Jewish Press Radio with Yishai Fleisher: From Shavuot to Asifa

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

With Shavuot over, the Managing Editor of Jewish Press Online, Yishai Fleisher and his wife and co-host Malkah discuss their experiences in Jerusalem during the holiday and the importance of both Shavuot and Ruth to the Jewish People. Yishai moves on to talk about and elaborate on Asifa, which was a recent meeting of Ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City to examine the challenges of the Internet and in what context it fits into the Jewish world. The segment wraps up with Yishai and Malkah further mulling over solutions that can allow the Internet to be useful and Kosher at the same time.

To download, right-click, and “Save Target As” HERE.

Yoram Ettinger: Shavuot Guide for the Perplexed

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Shavuot is the holiday of the Torah, which impacted the US Constitution in particular and the state of Western morality, liberty, and democracy in general. Shavuot is celebrated by decorating homes and houses of worship with Land of Israel-related fruit, vegetables, herb and flowers, demonstrating the indigenous connection between the Torah of Israel, the People of Israel, and the Land of Israel.

Shavuot – a spiritual holiday – follows Passover – a national liberation holiday: from physical liberation (the Exodus) to spiritual liberation/enhancement.

The two portions of the Torah, which are recited/studied around Shavuot, are נשא and בהעלותך, which mean – in Hebrew – spiritual enhancement and elevation. נשא is the longest portion of the Torah (176 verses), highlighting the inauguration of the ancient tabernacle and altar. בהעלותך highlights the Menorah (Candelabrum) of the ancient tabernacle, which had seven branches, similar to the seven day week and the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot.

Shavuot is celebrated 50 days following Passover. The Jubilee – the cornerstone of liberty and the source of the inscription on the Liberty Bell (Leviticus 25:10) – is celebrated every 50 years. Judaism highlights the constant challenge facing human beings: the choice between the 50 gates of wisdom and the corresponding 50 gates of impurity. Egypt represented the gates of impurity and the receipt of the Torah represented the gates of wisdom. The 50th gate of wisdom is the gate of deliverance. The USA is composed of 50 states.

Shavuot highlights the eternity of the Jewish People. Thus, the first and the last Hebrew letters of Shavuot (שבועות) constitute the Hebrew name of the third son of Adam & Eve, Seth (שת), the righteous ancestor of Noah, hence of all mankind. The Hebrew meaning of Seth – שת – is “to institute” and “to bestow upon”, מתן in Hebrew – the Hebrew word for the bestowing of the Torah at Mt. Sinai (מתן תורה).

Shavuot (שבועות) is a derivative of the Hebrew word “Shvoua’” (שבועה) – vow, referring to the exchange of vows between God and the Jewish People. The origin of Shavuot occured 26 generations following Adam and Eve. The Hebrew word for Jehovah equals 26 in Gimatriya (assignment of numerical values to Hebrew letters). There are 26 Hebrew letters in the names of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs: Abraham (אברהם), Yitzhak (יצחק), Yaakov (יעקב) Sarah (שרה), Rivka (רבקה), Rachel (רחל) and Leah (לאה).

The Hebrew root of Shavuot is the word Seven – “Sheva” (שבע). Shavuot is celebrated 7 weeks following Passover; God employed 7 earthly attributes to create the universe (in addition to the 3 divine attributes); There are 7 basic human traits, which individuals are supposed to resurrect/adopt in preparation for Shavuot; 7 key Jewish/universal leaders – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aharon, Joseph and David – represent the seven qualities of the Torah and the wholesomeness of Judaism and the Land of Israel; 7 days of Creation and a 7 days in a week; The Sabbath is the 7th day; The first Hebrew verse in Genesis consists of 7 words; There are 7 species of the Land of Israel (barley, wheat, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive and date/honey); 7 represents multiplication – שבעתיים – “Sivatayim”; There are 7 directions (north, south, west, east, up, down, one’s own position); 7 gates to The Temple in Jerusalem; 7 Noahide Commandments; Moses’ birth/death was on the 7th day of Adar; Jethro had 7 names and 7 daughters; Passover and Sukkot (Tabernacles) last for 7 days each; each Plague lasted for 7 days; the Menorah has 7 branches; Jubilee follows seven 7-year cycles; according to Judaism, slaves are liberated, and the soil is not-cultivated, in the 7th year; there are 7 continents in the globe and 7 notes in a musical scale; there are 7 days of mourning over the deceased, 7 blessings in a Jewish wedding, 7 congregants read the Torah on each Sabbath and 7 Jewish Prophetesses (Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Chana, Abigail, Choulda and Esther). Pentecost is celebrated, by Christians, on the 7th Sunday after Easter.

Shavuot is the second of the 3 Jewish Pilgrimages (Sukkot-Tabernacles, Passover and Shavuot), celebrated on the 6th day of the 3rd Jewish month, Sivan. It highlights Jewish Unity, compared by King Solomon to “a three folds cord, which is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The Torah – the first of the 3 parts of the Jewish Bible – was granted to the Jewish People (which consists of 3 components: Priests, Levites and Israel), by Moses (the youngest of 3 children, brother of Aharon and Miriam), a successor to the 3 Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and to Seth, the 3rd son of Adam and Eve. The Torah was forged in 3 manners: Fire (commitment to principles), Water (lucidity and purity) and Desert (humility and principle-driven tenacity). The Torah is one of the 3 global pillars, along with labor and gratitude/charity. The Torah is one of the 3 pillars of Judaism, along with the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/holidays/yoram-ettinger-shavuot-guide-for-the-perplexed/2012/05/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: