Rabbinic Reflection: Rabbi Bill S. Tepper
Harvesting Our Blessings
Among my many beautiful recollections of time spent in Israel, is as a volunteer worker on my kibbutz – Sha’ar Ha’amakim [‘Gate of the Valleys’] near Haifa – during the Festival of Shavuot. On the sunlit afternoon of Shavuot day, all members of the kibbutz, and volunteers, gathered in the fields for speeches, stories, songs, music, dancing, refreshments, and wagon rides. It was a joyous gathering in acknowledgement of the ‘first fruits of harvest.’ It was a celebration of our Jewish calendar. And it was a heart-warming assembly recognizing those who – over a period of forty-five years – had made Sha’ar Ha’amakim a prosperous and welcoming home for both residents and volunteers.
Arriving as it does in late spring, Shavuot is a moment of rebirth, rejuvenation, and re-emergence – both agriculturally and otherwise. With the turn of the season and harvest cycle, our intellect, emotions and spirit are elevated. We look ahead to the summer and the months beyond with hope and aspirations for what we may yet achieve.
And arriving as it does seven weeks – Shavuot translating from Hebrew as ‘weeks’ – following our Festival of Pesach, Shavuot calls on us to remember and relive the remarkable moment when our ancestors – with Moses as their teacher and guide – stood at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah from God.
On Shavuot we reread and relearn the Bible’s Book of Ruth, she who our tradition teaches us was the first Jew-by-Choice. In this way and others, Ruth’s embrace of Judaism and the mitzvot of God become, on Shavuot, ours as well.
On Shavuot Temples and synagogues traditionally celebrate the Confirmation experience of their youth. For on this day, our youth – as did our ancestors, as did Ruth, and as do all the rest of us – accept Torah as a guide for how they will live their lives, as Jews and valued members of their larger communities.
On Shavuot – we thank God and one another for Torah, community, and the reward with which Judaism imbues our lives.
And on Shavuot – to be celebrated at Holy Blossom Temple on June 4 [Erev] and June 5 [Morning]- we harvest our blessings.
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