Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
If you ask me, Shavuot doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Judaism has a lot of holidays, and it’s understandable that some get emphasized more than others, depending on where you are — in the United States, Shavuot receives less attention than it does in Israel. But I want to start sharing in more Shavuot goodness, down South and throughout the U.S… so to inspire y’all to join in on the fun, I came up with some suggestions for enjoying this joyful festival.
Just as a refresher, Shavuot begins on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, which this year translates to beginning the evening of June 11, 2016, giving you some time to plan a fun celebration! The word Shavuot means weeks, and the festival marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot. It commemorates the wheat harvest in the Land of Israel, and also marks the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai. It is also one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three biblical pilgrimage festivals.
Also, since Shavuot is yet another food-focused fest (eating dairy is traditional for this holiday; find out why here… and get some truly amazing blintz recipes here!), you can think of each of the following festival-fun suggestions as individual menu items, easy to implement any single one for this year — or a buffet of ideas you could use to put together a full-on Shavuot retreat next year!
Connect with Nature: T’filah B’Tevah
T’filah b’tevah means “prayer in nature.” On this pilgrimage festival holiday, take some time to enjoy and thank God for the sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. Shavuot is all about connecting with nature and what better way to start that off than being directly in it. Fill this space with music, drums, silence, reflection, spices, and joy.
Alter the Altar: Bring Nature to the Bima!
To keep the outdoorsy-theme going, bring in pretty leaves, flowers, and plants to decorate the synagogue and most importantly the bima.
Sunrise Service for Shavuot/Shabbat
Especially if you decorated the bima, well, what better way to celebrate all the hard work you put in the night before than to have a morning service in the newly decorated beautiful space?
Create a Community Ketubah
Because part of Shavuot commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, it has become tradition to create a ketubah (marriage contract) that bonds God with the Jewish people. Spend some time creating a Community Ketubah in your religious school, at a Shavuot picnic, or on a family retreat, and have everyone sign it. Then proudly display the contract in your synagogue!
Midnight Midrash/Torah Study Slumber Party
One of the interesting aspects of this activity is that tradition indicates that Torah be studied on this holiday– but not any one particular part of the text. The significance is that the community is coming together to immerse themselves in the entire gift that God provided; the whole Torah! Yes, many places around the world do this all night long, I’ll give ya a pass if you can’t make it past 3 AM… but this could be a fun way to have a slumber party at the temple, and get younger members in on the action.
The Book of Ruth is often read and connected to Shavuot. But why? Engage congregants young and old by creating a game where they try to find all of the clues, moments, and meaningful insights from the text that make it resonate with Shavuot.
Did we mention the 16 amazing blintz recipes available in this one single Nosher article? Oh, yeah, we kind of did above… but it’s worth mentioning, and definitely an activity worth doing to celebrate this holiday!
I’ll be sharing in Shavuot in the Deep South, and hope many of you will join me from wherever you are in digging in on this delightful festival. Whether you choose just one activity from this menu, or offer a full smorgasbord of Shavuot activities for a weekend full of fun, have a wonderful holiday!
Pronounced: shah-voo-OTE (oo as in boot), also shah-VOO-us, Origin: Hebrew, the holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, falls in the Hebrew month Sivan, which usually coincides with May or June.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.