Celebrating Submission

Shavuot has no specific rituals because it is all about receiving God's Torah.

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Reenacting the Reception

And so the order of the day is to reenact our ancestors' acceptance of the Torah--pointedly not through any specific ritual but rather by re-receiving and absorbing it. Which is precisely what we do on Shavuot: open ourselves to the laws, lore, and concepts of G-d's Torah, our Torah--and accept them anew, throughout the night, even as our bodies demand that we stop and sleep.

The association of Shavuot with our collective identity as a symbolic bride accepting a divine "marriage gift" may well have something to do with the fact that the holiday's hero is a heroine, Ruth (whose book is read in the synagogue on Shavuot); and with the fact that her story not only concerns her own wholehearted acceptance of the Torah but culminates in her marriage.

It is not quite fashionable these days--indeed it violates the prevailing conception of cultural correctness--to celebrate passivity or submission, even in the words' most basic and positive senses.

But it might be precisely what we Jews are doing on Shavuot.

May the celebration of our collective wedding anniversary be a happy and meaningful one for us all.

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Rabbi Avi Shafran

Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.