The Time of the Giving of the Torah

We had two Shabbatot this week. One will be starting in just a few ours (at exactly 7:06 pm). But, on Tuesday night and Wednesday, we celebrated Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks. Falling seven seven’s, seven weeks after Pesach, we celebrate both the wheat harvest and the giving of the Torah at Sinai. As I have read countless times over the past few weeks, Shavuot is a holiday really devoid of special rituals or activities. There is not seder like Pesach. We don’t light special candles like on Chanukah. There is, however, a Shavuot activity that has become more and more popular over the past few years: Tikkun Leil Shavuot.

The Zohar describes the giving of the Torah like a wedding. Wedding and marriage is a common metaphor in Judaism; God is often describe as the groom to the Jewish people, the Jewish people as a groom to Torah, Shabbat as a bride. In a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, Jews stay up all night on Shavuot studying, usually Torah but in the modern world a much more diverse array of topics. Some just stay up later than they ordinarily would, but many make it all the way until sunrise, they recite the morning prayers for Shavuot, and then head to bed. Tikkun Leil Shavuot has become popular in the non-Orthodox community in Israel, and many, many community and educational organizations hosted Tikkunei Leil Shavuot. Fortunately for me, many in Jerusalem also offered teachings in English. I had the chance to hear both Rabbis David and Donniel Hartman at the Shalom Hartman Institute, as well as attend a session at Beit Avi Chai. The learning was very interesting, but just as interesting was the intersection of so many sectors of society in Jerusalem. Men, women, adults, children, religious, secular, and everything in between. At HUC there was a tikkun in Hebrew, and at 2 am the place was filled with secular Israelis. The city was hopping late into the night.

Today, I remembered how much I love walking around a city. I loved it in Boston. I did it a little in Jackson. All over Jerusalem. Even though its in the 90s here, I had a great day of walking around. Walking to get shwarma. Walked to Pomerantz bookstore too see what was new there. Walked to the Kippa Man on Ben Yehuda, who may be the only business in Israel that understands customer service. I told him what size I was looking for, and he pulled out stack after stack of kippot, grabbing this or that one for me too see. When I narrowed my selection down to six (I wanted two), he threw two out, saying they were no good. Pretty honest for a guy peddling his product. I left with three, and paid what I thought two would cost me. I walked up to the shuk to get some dessert for tomorrow, stopped by Gans, Tami’s and my favorite Judaica shop, to see what was new there, and walked back to the hotel. All in all, about three hours of walking around in the midday sun. Couldn’t have felt better.

As an aside, I am writing this from the Aroma Espresso Bar in Mamilla. It is very hot today in Jerusalem, and the place is packed with people looking for an iced coffee and a bit of air conditioning. I was lucky enough to get a table in the corner, and just after I sat down, a lovely woman asked if she in her daughters could join us. We exchanged pleasantries, where we came from (them from outside Haifa, me from LA), and they wanted to know all about the Jewish community in the US. Are there are lot of Jews in LA? Where is the biggest Jewish community? Where did you study Hebrew? What are you doing here. It was a great chance to do some hasbara (public relations) for the US Jewish community, and Reform Judaism. They seemed pleasantly surprised to learn or have confirmed that yes, women can be rabbis, that yes, gays and lesbians can be rabbis. They were surprised that I wanted to be rabbi, even thought I didn’t come from an Orthodox home. Then, once the younger daughter started complaining that she was getting cold (It’s probably 78 degrees in the shop), off they went. Another Jewish Peoplehood connection made.

שבת שלום לכולם – Shabbat Shalom everyone.


About Greg Weisman

Rabbinical Student at the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Kol Ami Teaching Assistant at the University of Southern California Husband, son, brother, dog owner, sports fan View all posts by Greg Weisman

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