The giving of The Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. happened at one specific time, but the receiving of Torah happens all the time, in every generation.
—Rebbe Yitzchak Meir Alter (1799–1866)
In ancient times, of the three pilgrimage festivals, the harvest festival Lit. Booths or huts Sukkot is the autumn harvest Festival of Booths, is celebrated starting the 15th of the Jewish month of Tishrei. Jews build booths (sukkot), symbolic of the temporary shelters used by the ancient Israelites when they wandered in the desert. Traditionally, Jews eat and sleep in the sukkah for the duration of the holiday (seven days in Israel and eight outside of Israel). The lulav (palm frond), willow, myrtle, and etrog fruit are also waved together. was the major Jewish holiday of the year, called by the talmudic rabbis “Ha-hag,” “The holiday.” In the centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple that centrality shifted to Passover is a major Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish people's liberation from slavery and Exodus from Egypt. Its Hebrew name is Pesakh. Its name derives from the tenth plague, in which God "passed over" the homes of the Jewish firstborn, slaying only the Egyptian firstborn. Passover is celebrated for a week, and many diaspora Jews celebrate for eight days. The holiday begins at home at a seder meal and ritual the first (and sometimes second) night. Jews tell the story of the Exodus using a text called the haggadah, and eat specific food (matzah, maror, haroset, etc)., perhaps because we were so often wandering homeless and that story evoked our deepest desires as a people. In this time of radical global changes, when all of life is in danger of extinction, I began to feel that repeating the “Us vs. Them” stories we tell at Passover holds us back from getting out of the wilderness and into a deep space of inner, outer, and shared openness to God, Goddess, Spirit, the Source. Suddenly one day this idea came to me – that it’s time for us to move beyond the Pesakh narrative and its stories of Repression and Redemption – to those of Shavuot is the holiday fifty days after Passover and commemorates when the Israelite liberation from Egypt culminates with the giving of the Torah. Traditionally, Jews study in an all-night study session, eat dairy products (one interpretation is that the Torah is like milk to us), and read both the Ten Commandments and the Book of Ruth. and its stories of Revelation and Relationship – by celebrating Shavuot for an entire week, expanding our Tikkun Leil Shavout learning so that each day we explore another level of Torah, using the term “Torah” in the broadest sense.
Study sessions as I imagine them would all be on the theme of Revelation and Relationship, and may incorporate written texts as well as music and art, meditation and movement, from yoga and tai chi to dancing. During these sessions participants may also create stories, prayers, poems, songs, dances, and art that emerge from our studies. Gardening, flower arranging, cooking classes, hiking, and time at a The ritual bath. The waters of the mikveh symbolically purify – they are seen as waters of rebirth. A convert immerses in the mikveh as part of conversion. Many Orthodox married women go to the mikveh following their period and before resuming sexual relations. Couples go to the mikveh before being married. Many, including some men, immerse before Yom Kippur; some go every Friday before Shabbat. can also be part of this weeklong celebration, allowing us to engage all of our senses in deeply embodied ways.
Below is an outline of what came to me in a burst of (perhaps) divine inspiration:
The 1st Day of Shavuot: organized around reading and studying texts and themes from the Tanakh that concern Divine Connection.
The 2nd Day of Shavuot: focus on texts and themes that come from the The rabbinic compendium of lore and legend composed between 200 and 500 CE. Study of the Talmud is the focus of rabbinic scholarship. The Talmud has two versions, the main Babylonian version (Bavli) and the smaller Jerusalem version (Yerushalmi). It is written in Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic..
The 3rd Day of Shavuot: reading relevant stories and themes from A rabbinic method of interpreting text, often through the telling of stories..
The 4th Day of Shavuot: devoted to texts and themes from Jewish mysticism.
The 5th Day of Shavuot: feature texts and themes from our prayers, from our siddurim and other collections of liturgy.
The 6th Day of Shavuot: organized around non-canonical Jewish writings from ancient and medieval times until the beginning of the Enlightenment.
7th Day of Shavuot: organized around texts written by Jewish writers in the centuries since the Enlightenment, in all genres, secular and religious, from every Jewish community in the world, including novels, stories, poems, prayers, essays, films, etc.
In crafting new observances for an expanded Shavuot I’m inviting us to remember what was revealed at According to the Torah, God, in the presence of the Jewish people, gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai (Har Sinai). and that God, however we experience or define It, is revealing Itself to us in every moment. If we’re going to survive, we’re going to need to live in the world in whole new ways, and this is an invitation to use a weeklong holiday to meditate, pray, go inward and open ourselves to guidance from The Eternal, recalling the words that The quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe. says in Numbers 11:29:
Would that all The Eternal’s people were prophets,
that The Eternal put Its spirit upon them.
Join Elias on May 13th @ 12:00pm ET for “Revelation and Relationship: Receiving Torah in a Time of Global Change.”
Elias Ramer was ordained a Lit. The telling The section of the Passover seder for telling the story of the exodus from Egypt in 2012. Under the name Andrew Ramer he’s the author of four books of midrash – Queering the Text: Biblical, Medieval, and Modern Jewish Stories; Torah Told Different: Stories for a Pan/Poly/Post-Denominational Era; Deathless: The Complete, Uncensored, Heartbreaking, and Amazing Autobiography of Serach bat Asher, the Oldest Woman in the World; and Fragments of the Brooklyn Talmud. He lives in Oakland, California. For more information visit andrewramer.com.