The Evolution of Tikkun Leil Shavuot and Details About Community Shavuot 2021
Shavuot is an ancient holiday that has blossomed in recent years as a celebration of Jewish learning. But how exactly did we arrive at the modern manifestation of Shavuot, and what significance does this day hold for us as Reconstructionist Jews?
The biblical origins of Shavuot lie in the agricultural celebration of the first wheat harvest after Passover. Ancient Jews would bring their freshly-baked bread to the temple and partake in a celebration of freedom and bounty. However, in post-Temple Judaic practice, Shavuot shifted into a celebration of the giving of Torah to Moses at Sinai. This shift happened around the 1st century CE, when the early rabbis noticed that the receiving of Torah on Sinai coincided with the exact date of Shavuot. By linking Shavuot to this event, the holiday regained relevance in the Jewish calendar.
The celebration of receiving the Torah evolved over the years. In early days the holiday centered around Torah as divine revelation, but soon expanded into an exploration of halakha (Jewish law) and midrash (stories). Around the 16th century, mystics and Kabbalists expanded the holiday’s celebration into an entire night of study, called Tikkun Leil Shavuot (preparation for a night of study). In the early 20th century, the tradition of eating dairy (in particular cheesecake!) was born out of the symbolism of Torah as milk and honey. Consuming these foods was thought to be a symbol of receiving Torah.
Into the 21st century, the study of Torah on Shavuot has taken on new meaning as the definition of Torah itself has expanded to encompass the whole of Jewish tradition. The Reconstructionist tradition has embraced Shavuot as a time to study what it means to be Jewish and explore how Jewish values can inform contemporary social issues. Reconstructing the revelation of Torah at Sinai, we ourselves are experiencing the revelation of knowledge from our community, our rabbis, and each other during this engaging evening of study!
On Sunday May 16th at 7:30pm, AARC will join congregations in Washtenaw county and beyond to celebrate Shavuot. The event will feature a night of study featuring a keynote address by Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit. The evening will host multiple learning sessions, including text study, embodied movement, and creative cooking. BYOC (Bring Your Own Cheesecake) and prepare for a night of learning and connecting to our Jewish community. The zoom link will be sent out in our mailer the Tuesday prior to the event. If you do not receive our mailers and would like to come, please email us! We hope to see you there!