Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Days and Weeks: Shavuot 5780

Counting and Counting: Several thousand years ago, all Jews then living, all Jews ever born, and all Jews ever to be born gathered beneath Mount Sinai to hear God speak to us. None were wearing masks (Moses did put on a mask later, but that was ... different).

We celebrate this wondrous event (hearing the voice of God, not watching Moses put on his mask) every year on the Holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, exactly forty-nine full days (which are, as we know now, seven full weeks) after the Holiday of Pesach.

When God freed us from Egypt,
there was a reason:
so God could give us His Torah.

No, not only The Ten Commandments. The entire Torah. The Written Law and The Oral Law. This year, Shavuot begins on Thursday evening, May 28th.

Come learn & celebrate at the

Community Tikkun Leil Shavuot
Thursday May 28th 8:30 pm - 12:10 am

There will be (בּע״ה) five (5) learning sessions running from 8:30 pm to 12:10 am. Featuring -

Guest Shavuot Scholar Beth Huppin
whose topic will be
Receiving Revelation Against our Will

Shavuot is a time when the entire people of Israel received Revelation at the same time. It is troubling to note that according to some understandings of this moment, the people received revelation under duress.

Was duress needed? Does duress always lead to new insights? What happens when an entire people (or the entire world?!) is under unwanted pressure?

In what ways does duress result in a shared experience and in what days does it result in unique experiences? What might an examination of these questions teach us during these current times?

Beth Huppin is the Director of Project Kavod/Dignity, the Jewish education program at Jewish Family Service in Seattle. She has enjoyed teaching Judaica to children and adults of all ages in both formal and informal settings for over 30 years. She is the recipient of a 2010 National Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Click here for more details about speakers, topics, and schedules.

To complement this Torah study, Abq Jew offers New York Congressman Jerry Nadler's Shavuot 2020 D'var Torah. FYI: Jerry Nadler, it turns out, is the only (current) Member of Congress who has attended [Crown Heights] Yeshiva.

Mr Nadler also got degrees from Columbia and Fordham. His father was a New Jersey chicken farmer. Not bad. But Abq Jew digresses.

Listening Leads to Understanding, Which Leads to God
A D’var Torah for Shavuot by Congressman Jerry Nadler 
The current coronavirus pandemic presents an incredibly challenging time in our nation’s history. It has forced all of us to make significant changes to our lives as we adjust to social distancing and other preventative measures designed to curb the spread of the virus. 
Holiday celebrations have not been exempt; typically, right about now many of us would be preparing for a “Tikkun Leil Shavuot,” where our communities engage in a night full of learning, rigorous debate, and togetherness. 
We set aside this time because the holiday of Shavuot marks the culmination of the Children of Israel’s transformation, or evolution, from slaves in Egypt into a Jewish nation. 
I want to suggest that the Jewish people’s evolution came about through understanding, a role model for our actions in these difficult times.
When the Jews assembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai to accept the Torah, God said to the people that if they preserved the covenant, “You will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).  
After hearing the laws of the Torah, the Jewish people exclaimed, “na’aseh v’nishma” (Exodus 24:7). Some commentators translate this phrase as “we will do and we will obey [the laws as they are written],” but I believe a more apt translation is “we will do and we will listen.” 
To listen is to hear — “Shma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad” — which requires understanding on multiple levels: who is speaking, what are they saying, whom are they speaking to, and what are the circumstances, needs, and capacity of the listeners. 
Pharaoh infamously refused to understand, even when the situation was painfully obvious, saying, “Who is Adonai, that I should listen [eshma] to [God’s] voice?” (Exodus 5:2) 
In stark contrast to his counter-example, the Children of Israel left Egypt as slaves, but through their journey to Sinai, their listening — their growing understanding of Adonai — transformed them into a Jewish nation. 
In the time of this health and economic crisis, it is crucial that we hear those hurting across the country and use that understanding to inform our own actions, 
whether in legislation, or public advocacy, or communal support, in order to provide the resources and care that are desperately needed. 
Although we may not be able to come together in person this Shavuot, we can collectively reaffirm our commitment to “na’aseh v’nishma,” 
both as members of the Jewish nation and an American public that strives to attain and protect the rights and liberties for all. 

Hag Sameach, Albuquerque!
Good Yontif, New Mexico!
Hag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom, Israel!

About The Calendar

Shavuot Day 2 this year falls on Saturday May 30. But in ארץ ישראל (The Land of Israel) - Shavuot ends when Shabbat begins, on Friday night. So in Israel, they'll be reading Nasso on Shabbat, while we in חו״ל (Outside The Land) will be reading Shavuot Day 2.

Which also means that thereafter, the Parsha of the Week will not be the same in Israel as it is elsewhere; Israel will be one week ahead. And it will stay ahead until Saturday July 11, when we join up again for Pinchas.

This, in turn, puts us in sync for שׁבּת חזון, The Sabbath of Vision, so we can observe תשׁע בּאב (Tisha b'Av) together as one.

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