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Shavuot - Five Ideas For Making It a Meaningful Experience.
I've always felt a little sorry for Shavuot - Succot and Pesach (Shavuot's partner festivals) are each a week long and full of cool stuff that Jews are commanded to either do (like eating Matzah, shaking a Lulav & Etrog, building and eating in a Succah and holding a Seder).
Poor old Shavuot is just one day (two outside Israel), and the Torah doesn't give it any particular commandments for us to do - in fact it is the only Jewish festival that doesn't even have a date, we are simply told that it is held 50 days after Pesach. Maybe that's the reason that for large parts of the Jewish world, Shavuot gets forgotten.
However the Jewish people haven't let the absence of commandments get in the way of having a deeply meaningful and spiritual Shavuot experience. Here are 5 great ideas you can try, based on Jewish customs which have become part of this festival over the past 3000 years:
1. Don't Sleep!!!
I know... you love to shluff, but Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Ten commandments on Mt.Sinai and surprsingly, our ancestors slept well that night, which didn't go down well with G-d, so now we have a custom (called Tikkun Layil) to stay up all night and study. You'll find most synagogues hold a program on Shavuot night, but if you don't feel like staying up the whole night, why not devote an hour or two to simply reading a book on Judaism?
2. Eat Cheesecake
Everyone has a different reason for the custom of eating dairy based foods on Shavuot, but never mind why - cheesecake is awesome!!
3. Read the Book of Ruth
It's actually a great story about two remarkable women, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, who would become the ancestor of King David. David was born and died on Shavuot. It's therefore become a custom to read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot. More HERE.
4. Go Green!
Shavuot is the time of the wheat harvest in Israel, and because the summer weather hasn't fully taken hold, the land is still in flower, so we decorate our houses and synagogues with greenery and flowers - so get your vases out, and get pruning!
5. Forget New Year Resolutions - Make a Shavuot Resolution!
Shavuot is the festival when the Jewish people received the Ten Commandments, a moment that changed the world forever, so what better time could there be to make a resolution to learn a little more about Judaism? A great place to start is with one of Jerusalem U's video classes.
Have a Chag Samaech - A meaningful, and Happy Shavuot !