Shavuot

Shavuot

Tonight begins the holy day of Shavuot, when we commemorate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai 3,319 years ago. The name of the holiday, meaning ‘weeks,’ is a reference to the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot, a period during which we count the Omer, and every night we anxiously await the arrival of the day of Revelation.

This is my favorite holiday in the Jewish year: while most people know about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover, Shavuot has diminished in visbility, though not in importance; it is one of the three holidays where the men of Israel were required to go to Jerusalem and the Temple, along with Passover and Sukkot.

The status in which it is held today belies the importance of Shavuot: Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah, the single event in Jewish history that truly and utterly changed the world. Without the giving of the Torah, there would have been no reason for the exodus out of Egypt, no reason for Jacob and his sons to have descended there in the first place, no reason for Abraham to have had Isaac, because in the end, all these events were driving at the creation of a people, of a nation, that would be G-d’s chosen people on Earth, a nation that would be the carriers of Divine Will in the physical realm, a nation that would help make the limited an abode for the unlimited.

On Shavuot we accepted the Torah, and by that act we became a nation, separate yet part of the world, Holy unto G-d, “a kingdom of kohanim (priests or ministers).” The reason we have all the other holy days in the Jewish calendar is because we are the Jewish people, and we are the Jewish people because of our acceptance of the Torah; without Torah, we are nothing.

As a convert, Shavuot gives me context; my soul was present at Mt. Sinai, either in physical form as a prior gilgul (incarnation), or as a pure soul destined to eventually join the Jewish people, so in many respects, aside from the actual day on which my conversion was completed, this is my anniversary of being Jewish, of my soul finally coming home. It is the celebration of a day when I was not a convert, but an equal part of the whole (not that there is any deficiency in being a convert, though some people may erroneously think so).

Tonight I will do my best to stay up all night studying Torah, as is the custom–which is one of my favorite parts of the holiday–and tomorrow I will once again stand at Mt. Sinai, hearing G-d Himself read His commandments to us, and saying, “We will do and we will listen.”

Chag sameach!