See you at Sinai

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Tomorrow night when we make havdalah at the end of Shabbat, we’ll be marking the transition between the holy time of Shabbat, and the holy time of the festival of Shavuot, which begins tomorrow night at sundown.

Shavuot is the culmination of the 49-day Omer journey. Tonight we will count the 49th day since the second night of Pesach. Tomorrow, on the 50th day, we’ll celebrate zman mattan Torateinu: “the time of the giving of the Torah.”

Tradition teaches that all of our souls were mystically present at Sinai at the moment when Torah was first given. (All of us — every Jew who ever was or ever will be — including all those who choose to join the Jewish people.) It’s a beautiful vision of our togetherness. And just as a Torah is considered pasul (unkosher) if even one letter is missing, so too our community is not whole without every single one of us.

And tradition also teaches that all of our souls will be present together tomorrow night, too. Whether or not you’re staying up late to learn and nosh and celebrate, your soul will be connected with every other Jewish soul that has ever been and ever will be: all of us together at the foot of the mountain, receiving Torah anew.

Another name for Shavuot is chag ha-bikkurim, the Festival of First Fruits. Our agricultural ancestors brought the first fruits of their harvest to God at Shavuot, offering up the finest things they had grown as a way of saying thank-You to the One Who enables all life. For us, perhaps Shavuot is a day to offer up the emotional and spiritual harvest of this spring “growing season.”

What has grown in us since seder? What have the last seven weeks brought forth for us in body, heart, mind, and spirit? Ideas and insights, waves of emotion, spiritual a-ha! moments — our gratitudes and our griefs — all of these are the internal harvest we can offer up on Shavuot, as a way of saying thank-You to the Source of All.

Join Rabbi Pam Wax for our annual tikkun leyl Shavuot on Saturday night and for festival morning services with Yizkor (the memorial prayers) on Sunday. Immerse in some learning. Open your heart, and invite the Torah of new insights and new dreams to flow into you and, through you, into the world. Shabbat shalom, and when tomorrow night rolls around, chag sameach!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

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