Getting Ready for Shavuot?

bikurims.jpgAsk anyone what the most important Jewish Holy Day is and you’ll probably get two different answers: Yom Kippur and Pesach.

Lots of people will actually mention Yom Kippur because of the many Jews for whom it is the only day they re-connect with their Jewish roots. In France we have a term for them, Kippur Jews.

Yet Jewish tradition would seem to indicate that Pesach is more important. Thus the sages say that we are obligated to remember every day that God took us out of Egypt. Jewish men do so by wearing Tefillin, a pair of black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with biblical verses which refer to this event when they pray in the morning. We all do so by reciting the Shema evening and morning or when we say the Birkat Hamazon after a meal and on numerous other occasions.

What about Shavuot? The Jewish holiday we celebrate on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, beginning in the evening of June 8th this year. In fact, if we look carefully at the Torah passages that we read during the morning prayer, we’ll see that we evoke Shavuot and the Book of Ruth (which we read on this Festival) every day too.

This excerpt is situated at the beginning of the morning prayer, after the blessings over the Torah. After these blessings (because we must not say a blessing in vain) we read three different passages from the Torah. One from the Written Torah and two from the Talmud (one from the Mishnah and the other one from the Gemara).

This is the Mishnah passage:
These are the things that have no measure: The Peah of the field, the first-fruits, the appearance [at the Temple in Jerusalem on Pilgrimage Festivals], acts of kindness, and the study of the Torah. (Peah 1:1)

In the Book of Ruth, it is thanks to the Peah that, at one point, Ruth and Naomi can survive.

– Shavuot was the first day on which individuals could bring the Bikkurim (first fruits) to the Temple in Jerusalem.

– Shavuot is one of the three Pilgrimage Festivals, Shalosh Regalim, when the Israelites living in ancient Israel and Judea would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There they would participate in festivities and ritual worship in conjunction with the services of the kohanim (“priests”) at the Temple.

Acts of kindness is a major theme in the Book of Ruth.

– To prepare for Shavuot there is an ancient tradition of all-night Torah study when men and women attend classes on the first evening of the Festival until the early hours of the morning.

Feel you want to know more? Stay tuned and visit this blog as well as Leora’s blog for more insights on the Book of Ruth and its significance as from next week.

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