This year we will again celebrate Shavuot at the Williams College Jewish Religious Center, along with our friends from Congregation Beth-El in Bennington, on May 26, a Saturday night — two weeks from tomorrow! We’ll begin at 9pm with a short-and-sweet festival ma’ariv (evening) service, and then we’ll segue into an evening of studying and noshing.
It’s traditional to study Torah all night on Shavuot, so that we don’t replicate the behavior of our ancestors at Sinai (who, midrash tells us, slept in and almost missed the revelation.) We rarely last all night long, but we’ll learn together for at least a few hours. In recent years, the last stalwarts have finished our learning with a sweet little ritual around 2am, but there’s no need to commit to staying all night — come for whatever amount of time you can.
This year’s theme will be the book of Ruth, which is the book customarily read on Shavuot. It’s a beautiful novella, and is well worth rereading. If you would like to offer a teaching, please let me know! To whet your appetite and entice you to join us, here’s a sneak preview of some of the evening’s line-up:
- Chaim Bronstein – What Would Ruth Do: social justice teachings from the Book of Ruth
- R’ Pam Wax – The gerut of Ruth, Jethro and Rahab: including a look at the “ger tzedek” (righteous stranger/convert) and the “ger toshav” (stranger/convert who lives among us)
- R’ Joshua Boettiger – Hijacking the Stranger: A look at Jethro and Tzipporah
- R’ Rachel Barenblat – Poems of Ruth: Together we’ll read several poems (classical and contemporary) arising out of the Book of Ruth, and discuss how the book’s themes, characters, and teachings are reflected and refracted through these new lenses.
I know we’ll also be savoring teachings from R’ Vanessa Boettiger and Cantor Bob Scherr… as well as tasty dairy treats, since it’s customary to eat dairy at Shavuot. (See the cheesecake illustration, above.)
Shavuot is a wonderful holiday. This year it’s also our last chance to study, sing, and rejoice with the Boettigers, who are leaving Vermont for the west coast.
I hope you’ll join us for this evening of joy, celebration, and the opportunity to receive whatever Torah we most need revealed to us this year at this moment in our lives.
(And, of course, don’t forget that on Shavuot morning — Sunday May 27 — Rabbi Pam Wax invites all of us to celebrate a wedding: with God as one partner, and us as the other!)
Here’s to a sweet and meaningful Shavuot.