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5777 Shavuot [ 05/26/17 ]

Dear Friends,

Please join us for services this Wednesday morning at ten as we observe the Yom Tov. Shavuot is one of the least appreciated holidays on the Jewish calendar. In ancient times it marked the conclusion of the all-important barley harvest; an occasion of great rejoicing and pomp as processions were made to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with flutes, singing of psalms and flowers adorning the horns of oxen as grain offerings were brought to the altar. The Torah commands,You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the first fruits of barley harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end. ‘(Exodus 34:22)

When the Holy Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE the holiday was necessarily transformed. In Talmudic times the Sages began to associate Shavuot with the Giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai. For me, the fascinating aspect of this transformation was ancient Judaism’s ability to adapt to the realities of the world it inhabited. This is in sharp contrast to the belief held by some today that any change in our observance is forbidden.

Scholars of modern Jewish history have suggested that the resistance to change in most sectors of traditional Judaism is both understandable and a fiction. Understandable in that change has been stoutly resisted since the beginning of the 19th century when Reform Judaism began to gather steam. A fiction, in that many very substantial changes in ritual and even halachah have occurred in the past two centuries.

Looking at Judaism through the frame of Shavuot allows us to see more clearly that Jewish life remains dynamic rather than static as we continue to evolve and reinvent ourselves. That is, after all, the reason we remain so fiercely attached to our Jewish Way of Life; its ability to anchor us to eternal Torah values without choking off the outside influences which elevate and enhance our message.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Steven Silver