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Counting Upward, The Spiritual Journey to Shavuot

Shavuot, a Jewish holiday that celebrates the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai, is around the corner but Jews have been diligently preparing for this moment since the second night of Passover.

The word Shavuot (or Shavuos) means “weeks,” and the Torah invites us on a seven-week, soul- searching journey known as Sefirat HaOmer–that’s when we count up to the days of Omer. This 49-day time period is meant to be a workout of the human psyche so that our soul is in better shape to receive the vast wisdom in the Torah that was entrusted to us by God. We count up–not down–because each day we ascend to a level higher of spiritual refinement, each day we take one step closer to becoming God’s chosen nation. Living in a Covid pandemic world right now, we are doing a lot of counting. We are counting 100,000 American lives lost to this virus that we didn’t even know existed a year ago. We count days in quarentine, days until another part of the economy reopens. During this time, more than anything,  we are reminded that  every day counts, every person counts, every act of kindness counts, every growing pain counts, and, every blessing counts.

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Shavuot Celebrates Receiving The Torah

Shavuot is a major Jewish festival commemorating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Without Shavuot, the Jews still would be wandering the dessert. So this biblical holiday—one of the three pilgrimage festivals from the Torah (the other two are Passover and Sukkot)—represents the most significant event in Jewish history. Although the average American Jew pays more attention to Hanukkah because of the widely recognized symbol of the menorah, the “Festival of Lights” doesn’t hold a candle to Shavuot. Continue reading

Shavuot Kicks Off Summer with Taste of Milk and Honey

Now that summer is here and school is out doesn’t mean that the Jewish holidays are on vacation. Think again. One of the most significant events in Jewish history–the giving of the Torah at Sinai–occurs seven weeks after Passover (June 9 and 10 this year) and celebrates the cutting of the harvest of wheat and first fruits in Israel. The joyous holiday known as Shavuot, which means “weeks” in Hebrew, doesn’t get the widespread recognition of Hanukkah or share any distinctive symbols, such as matza and a sukkah, like the other two pilgrimage holidays of Passover and Sukkot. However, without Shavuot, our journey to the Promised Land is incomplete, like the ultimate cliffhanger.
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Shavuot Celebrates Most Significant Event in Jewish History

All these years I thought the most important Jewish holidays were the most celebrated ones, such as when we dip apples in honey at Rosh Hashanah, cleanse our souls at Yom Kippur, and retell our history at the Passover seder. Let’s not forget about the most beloved ritual of all—when we light the menorah at Hanukkah and our heads spin like dreidels from all the gift exchanges.

Actually, turns out that the most significant Jewish holiday has no rituals, no songs, and really no symbols to call its own. Yet the upcoming holiday of Shavuot represents the most momentous event in Jewish history—when the Jews were given the Torah at Mount Sinai. Continue reading

Omer Bridges Passover And Shavout

Before you throw away the box of leftover crumbled matzah, just keep in mind that the Jewish journey to Sinai isn’t over yet. Sure, we can eat bagels once again, but we also have many more opportunities to learn about our history before the next major festival Shavuot gets here. Continue reading