When God gave the Torah,
no bird sang and no fowl flew, no ox bellowed, no angel stirred a wing. The seraphim did not say, “Holy, Holy,” the sea did not roar, and no creature spoke.
The whole world stood hushed into breathless silence, and the voice went forth and proclaimed,
“I am Adonai your God.”
(Exodus Rabbah 29:9)
A Wild Night
By Meta Hirschl
Okay, so the basics (even if you know this already, a quick review helps wake us up again): Shavuot, which means “weeks,” is the Feast of the Weeks, and refers to the timing of the festival which is held exactly seven weeks after Passover. Shavuot also commemorates the anniversary of when Shekinah gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai. So, receiving the Torah, that’s big -- very big.
Various traditions and customs of Shavuot have evolved from the legends and stories describing the experiences of the Israelites at Mount Sinai. According to tradition, the Israelites actually overslept on the morning of G-d's visit. To compensate for this negligence, Jews hold a vigil on the eve of Shavuot. They stay awake from dusk to dawn, keeping themselves busy with the readings of the Torah and the Talmud. A digest of readings has evolved called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, the “Restoration of Shavuot Eve,” which includes selections from the Torah, the Prophets, the Talmud and the Zohar.
So a little oversleeping and boom, you gotta stay up all night. Why does that appeal to me?
Renewal Judaism isn’t New Age Judaism or Santa Fe Spirit Judaism. To me, Renewal Judaism means the examination of our tradition and the rebirth and renewal of what still makes sense to us, what speaks to us now, in our time.
Rabbi Lynn has been an extraordinary cultivator of the tradition for us. She prunes, weeds, festoons, embellishes and extends our complicated, conflicted, problematic Jewish past to offer us what we need, what we can embrace.
I like the idea of spending Friday night ’til Saturday morning in community with my friends at Nahalat Shalom, reading, listening, viewing art, and, yes, doing some yoga throughout the night. I look forward to meditating together on just what makes a life worth living now and how to live it, in our crazy, confusing and sometimes dismaying times.
I first chanted the Torah at Nahalat Shalom on Shavuot. I‘ll never forget the feeling of reading the Torah (OK, so we all know it was mostly memorized; those vowels aren’t optional for me) from the scroll and hearing my voice sing those ancient words. Other congregants each read a line or two and then we danced.
This will be my first all-night Shavuot. I invite you to join those wild and crazy souls who, like me, think this just might be another shot at figuring something out. Or at least feeling lost with friends.
Shalom, Salaam, Namaste (Sanskrit: I see and celebrate the divine in myself and I see and celebrate the divine in you, and we are one.)