blog | about | contact | origins | help
BLOG

Shavuot: A Time to Check In

Share Share
Oh, Shavuot. It is not easy to blog about you, you one-day, calm, unassuming holiday, with your distinct lack of “You must do this”-ness. (No hut to build? No lulavim to inspect? No couch cushions to vacuum? No megillah I must hear? Only two meals to prepare? What will I do with all my extra time?)
 
However, you are a major holiday, one of the Big Three, the “Shalosh Regalim/Pilgrimage Festivals,” where Jews from all over would descend on the Beit HaMikdash to bring sacrifices and celebrate. Shavuot is actually special in that regard, because it is the holiday of the “bikkurim/first fruits,” when the Jewish people would bring their specially marked first fruit to Jerusalem. So Shavuot, just like Pesach, Sukkot and the other holidays, you deserve your own blog post.
 
I always think of Shavuot as “the end.” Having been a student, then a teacher and now a mother of students, I live and breathe by the school calendar. Hence, Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur/Sukkot marks the beginning; Shavuot, the end. But agriculturally, this is not the case. And, though we associate Shavuot mostly with receiving the Torah, Shavuot, like all of the Shalosh Regalim, originated as an agricultural celebration. (See Ex. 23: 14-17, and again in Deut. 16: 1-17. Thank you, Wikipedia.) So yes, we begin our new year on Rosh Hashanah, but agriculturally, it’s Pesach that marks the beginning of the new year. Pesach is the springtime holiday (Chag Ha’aviv), when everything is blooming and growing after a (hopefully) rainy winter. Next up is Shavuot, Chag Ha’katzir, the reaping holiday. And Sukkot, Chag Ha’asif, the harvest festival, is the climactic end, when the people would joyously gather their crops before the rains of winter began again.
 
Historically, Shavuot was a busy time. Farm-y activities [insert their actual names here] were in full swing, with all family members pitching in to help work the land. In fact, many attribute the school year’s July and August vacation to the agricultural schedule, because children were needed at home to help with the reaping. (Now, we keep summer vacation so our children have time to forget their math facts and announce loudly that they’re bored. I mean, so that they can “relax.” Ahem.)
 
So Shavuot is smack in the middle of the holiday/agricultural season, sandwiched between the fresh newness and exciting potential of Pesach and the unbridled joy of a successful harvest at Sukkot. One can imagine that, come the month of Sivan, it was probably difficult to focus on anything else except your crops and your fields. God understood this. Which brings us to another name of Shavuot: Atzeret, which means “stop.” God is commanding us to “Halt!” in the midst of all the hustle and the bustle. Like a mid-year performance review, He tells us, “OK, Jewish People, let’s check in here. How are we are all doing?” We take a day, we refocus our energies on God, we spend time with our families and we celebrate. A holiday like that doesn’t need “specialty mitzvot” like Pesach and Sukkot do. In fact, all the preparation and minutiae would somehow diminish the main purpose of the day, which is to stop, reflect and enjoy.
 
Shavuot is God’s gentle reminder that we’re about more than our busy workdays, whether we’re plowing and reaping or frantically finishing a blog post. No matter what our never-ending to-do lists scream at us, we are commanded to put it all aside, to take one day and reconnect with our God, our religion and our people. 

Share Share

 
 
 
 
 

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Delivered by FeedBurner

Jewish Values Online

Home | Search For Answers | Ask A Question | About | Contact Us | OriginsUseful Links | Blog | Help | Site Map

Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. Jewish Values Online
 
N O T I C E
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
NECESSARILY REFLECT OR REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE ORTHODOX, CONSERVATIVE OR REFORM MOVEMENTS, RESPECTIVELY.