Congregation Etz Chaim of DuPage County

The Celebration of Shavuot

Mon, 05/06/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi Bob

Sociologists report that Passover is the most widely observed Jewish holiday. More Jews participate in a Pesach Seder than in any other Jewish ritual. We cannot say the same thing about Shavuot. For many Jews, Shavuot is the holiday they ignore.

In our tradition Pesach and Shavuot have equal status. On Pesach we celebrate freedom. We recall that God took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an out stretched arm. God took us out of Egypt for a specific purpose. God delivered us from slavery in order to bring us to Mount Sinai and receive the Torah. Pesach commemorates the beginning of the story. Shavuot commemorates the conclusion.

In our congregation we have created new rituals to celebrate Shavuot. In ancient Jerusalem on Shavuot, the people brought offering of first fruits to the Temple. At our services we bring flowers to decorate the Ark.

The giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai is traditionally called “Ma’amad Har Sinai, standing at Mount Sinai.” On Shavuot we fully unroll the Torah scroll it encircles the congregation. Leaders of the congregation hold the scroll. Young people who have become Bar/Bat Mitzvah since last Shavuot will stand in front of their Torah portion. In turn they will each read.

We observe Ma’amad Har Sinai, standing at Mount Sinai by standing and hearing the words of Torah. In hearing these words read by our young people, we link ourselves to those who first heard the words of Torah. We link ourselves to those who have studied these words of Torah over the centuries. We link ourselves to those who will study them in years to come.