Shavu-what? A Major Jewish Holiday

Thursday, 18 May, 2017 - 11:41 pm

We all agree that our Jewish identity is important to us. We also accept that our identity as a people (nation, religion, ethnicity – however you wish to be defined) is significantly shaped by the Torah. Certainly our religious identity is based entirely on the Torah. It is safe to state, that even our cultural identity, value systems, moral structures etc. are heavily influenced (if not entirely defined) by the Torah. Based on the above, the most important moment in our history is the Revelation at Sinai, when the Torah was given to us.

Aside from the fact that, as mentioned, the body of teaching (Torah) that is most influential in defining every aspect of ourselves was given to us at that time, Revelation at Sinai was also the point that formalized and cemented our covenant with G-d. Essentially, Revelation as Sinai redefined and crystalized our unique relationship with Hashem.

Now we have a holiday that marks this monumental experience. It is known as Shavuot. While the Torah ascribes additional reasons for this holiday, undoubtedly its primary characterization is Z’man Matan Torah – the season of the giving of the Torah. One would think that such an important occasion would have a meteoric rise to the top of the holiday hierarchy in Jewish life. Yet, when polling a sampling of Jews, one will inevitably find that Shavuot finds itself way down the list of holidays that are celebrated. Pesach, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah, Purim, and even Sukkot will all most likely be listed before Shavuot in terms of relevance and observance. I am not here to analyze why this is so, nor am I here to lament that this is so. I am simply here today to encourage us all to reprioritize Shavuot for ourselves this year.

Decades ago, the Rebbe came out with a campaign to encourage every Jew, man, woman and child, to be present in the Synagogue on Shavuot for the reading of the Ten Commandments – the re-enacting and re-experiencing of the original Revelation at Sinai. Since then Chabad Houses all over the world have made a big push to get folks to come to hear the reading of the Torah that day. Ice cream parties and blintzes and cheesecake at the Kiddush are just some of the fringe benefits of participation.

The night before there are creative learning opportunities for all-night study. At Chabad Uptown we will be offering a mix of discussions, lectures, meditations and melodies. Here is a quick overview of the schedule for the night (Tuesday, May 30). There will be a Holiday Melody and Meditation session, followed by services and dinner, during which there will be a panel discussion, followed by a lecture, a lighting round lay led presentation, and concluding with a dialogue about the origin of the Torah. Chabad of Metairie will be having a similar program.

The next morning, (Wednesday, May 31,) Jews of all ages and stages are invited to participate in the reading of the Ten Commandments and dairy Kiddush that follows at both locations. We look forward to celebrating the most important moment in our history together with you and the rest of the community!

I want to take this opportunity to extend congratulations to Arnie Fielkow, who has just been appointed as the incoming CEO of the New Orleans Jewish Federation. Arnie is a true friend and a mensch in every way. We look forward to working together with him and everyone else at the JFED for the continued betterment of our New Orleans Jewish community!

On a somber note, I hope that you will join us on Wednesday evening (May 24 at 7 PM) for the Memorial Event for Dr. David Kaufmann. It will be a meaningful way to honor and commemorate an important figure in the community, who served in a leadership capacity for over 30 years.

Heartfelt condolences to Caron Bleich upon the passing of her mother, Mrs. Dorothy Joseph. 

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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