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Wisdom From On High

Shavuot has yet to capture the imagination of most liberal Jews. Why is that? 

The Torah describes three pilgrimage festivals, times when the ancient Israelites were expected to journey to Jerusalem with offerings of praise and thanks. As generations passed, these festivals became the holidays we know as Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot.  While all three share the status of biblically prescribed celebrations, their observance varies widely today. Statistics show that the vast majority of American Jews attend a Passover seder and anecdotal evidence shows increasing numbers of Jews building or enjoying a sukkah during Sukkot. Shavuot, however, has yet to capture the imagination of most liberal Jews. Why is that?  There are many possible explanations ranging from the holiday’s lack of significant home-based ritual to the difficulty of relating to revelation as a meaningful contemporary concept.

But celebrating revelation is as important to us today as it was to our ancestors. We may not believe that the Torah was given at Sinai and we may reject the idea that God’s will was known to Moses (or is knowable by us today), but we can (and should!) struggle with the rich and varied themes Shavuot presents to us.

Torah: On Shavuot we celebrate the giving of the Torah. If we define Torah as the inherited wisdom of the Jewish people, we can take this opportunity to consider the ways that wisdom guides us today. What is a piece of Jewish wisdom that instructs you on a regular basis?

Friendship: Shavuot is associated with the Book of Ruth, which is, in part, a story of devoted friendship. What are some meaningful friendships in your life? How can you rededicate yourself to being a loyal and responsive friend?

Text Study: One way to observe Shavuot is through study of traditional Jewish text. How do you engage with the literature of our people?

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