On the cusp of Shavuot…

Dear Friends,

I write to you on the day before Erev Shavuot – that’s Shavuot Eve, the beginning of the festival which celebrates the revelation of Torah. We’ve been counting the days until this night – literally – as the days, then weeks of the Omer have passed. Now is our opportunity to reap that harvest, and to recommit to hearing and learning from the words of Torah in our own time.

The coming weekend in our community is filled with ways to celebrate this beautiful and undersung holiday. Before giving you a final reminder of these events, I’d like to share a few of my favorite things about Shavuot:

— It is a holiday of multiple meanings. Originally celebrated as a harvest festival, Shavuot was one of three times during the year that the Israelites would make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem to present an offering of their first fruits. As commanded by Torah, farmers would recite a brief passage we now read in the Haggadah at Passover, linking their current good fortune with God’s redemption from Egypt. Over time, as we moved away from our agrarian roots and the Temple was no longer our anchoring holy site, we have kept the idea of Shavuot as a harvest alive. Today we harvest ever growing relationships with our sacred texts and traditions, and the new growth that consistently brings.

— The Book of Ruth. Traditionally read on Shavuot, it is a gorgeous, lyrical story of one young woman’s choice to cast her lot with the Jewish people. Through her devotion to her mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth’s story teaches us about the transformative power of kindness. It teaches us about how families are born and how they are made. Ruth’s story invites us to reflect on how grief and mourning reshape us, and how decisions we make take us places we may never have expected to go. No wonder the story of Ruth is held especially dear among many Jews by choice; individuals who find that Judaism is their true calling, bringing them home.

— Dairy! Calling all aficionados of blintzes and cheesecake… it’s a tradition to eat dairy on Shavuot as a symbol of the sweetness of Torah. It’s hard to argue with that!

Please join us for Shir Joy tonight at 7:30pm, at which time we will honor our seventh grade class who will be graduating from Religious School on Sunday, thus ending one path of learning and starting another. Tomorrow morning is our library minyan at 10:00am, and on Sunday morning we’ll be going on an early hike (meet at 6:00am at Briones Lafayette Ridge staging area on Pleasant Hill Road across from Acalanes High School). From there we’ll make our way up the mountain, sharing words of Torah at the top. Later that morning at 9:30am, we’re meeting back at CBT for our Day of Learning, followed by a light lunch and cake in the Social Hall at 12:00pm.

After all that, a well-earned nap! Until then though, let us mirror the experience of our ancestors and stay awake – in every sense – for new revelations of Torah and new harvests to come.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gutterman