Chag Shavuot sameach / happy Shavuot to all!
Like last year, my shul and the shul up the road celebrated Shavuot together. We had a really sweet time. This year we began the night with almost forty people present, around an enormous seminar table, and we savored ten lessons over the course of the evening:
What are we supposed to be repairing at the Tikkun? An investigation of the kabbalistic creation of the study vigil on the night of Shavuot, taught by Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser
What's in a Re-Naming? Another look at the story of Jacob's new name, taught by Joan
Shavuot and unharvested fields in Torah, taught by Karen
The sounds of prayer and study: how our musical traditions influence our approach to praying and learning as a community, taught by Cantor Bob Scherr
Honoring the Image of God: What does Jewish Law have to teach about Torture?, taught by Rabbi Joshua Boettiger
Three folk tales about Shavuot, taught by Werner
Water, Wells and Words: A Look at Miriam's Relationship to Water, taught by Betty
Spaces Between: stringing pearls of Torah into narrative, taught by Elma
Musical Settings of Revelation, taught by Cantor Emily Wigod Pincus
Shavuot: anniversary of a cosmic marriage, taught by me
I was especially moved by Joan's teaching about Jacob's new name Israel, which drew deeply on an essay called "The Engendered Shema: Sarah-Echoes in the Name of Israel" by Elizabeth Wyner Mark (published in Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought -- I'm psyched to dig up the article next time I'm at the college library.) And Karen's teachings about gleaning led me to consider the ways in which Shabbat and festivals allow us to glean holiness in the margins of our work lives -- how relationship with God is something we harvest best when we sit still.
It makes me really happy that our two congregations celebrate Shavuot and Simchat Torah together. There's a wonderful energy in our togetherness. When we first began our short festival maariv (evening service) the wave of song and impromptu harmony swept me away. We opened the evening with the blessing for Torah study, in order that our every interaction from then on -- the formal learning, and the informal conversations over espresso mocha milkshakes -- would be a form of engaging with Torah. And we closed the evening a hair before two, the seven final stalwarts standing in a circle in the sanctuary and passing the Torah around. Each of us receiving and giving.
I'll post later today or tomorrow about the lesson I taught. For now, I'm having a sweet slow day -- after several wonderful days of houseguests and anniversary celebrations of various kinds, I'm pretty beat! -- and feeling really blessed.