Liberal Arts Blog — Shavuot (“Weeks”) — The Ramadan of Judaism
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: Shavuot (“Weeks”) — The Ramadan of Judaism
Every day I am astounded by how little I know. Every day another gaping lacuna. Yesterday it was Shavuot, one of the “three pilgrimage festivals” of Judaism. (The other two are Passover and Sukkoth.) As Ramadan celebrates the giving of of the Quran to Mohammed, so Shavuot celebrates the revelation of the Torah (the Law) to Moses on Mt. Sinai — which allegedly occurred in 1312 BC. This year it is celebrated between the evening of May 25th (Thurs) and May 27th (Sat). Shavuot means “weeks” and marks the seventh week from the second day of Passover. Sevens are magic in Judaism and seven times seven is especially so. Today, a few more notes on Shavuot. Thank you to Michael Danto for inspiring the post. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE AGRICULTURAL ORIGINS — first, second, and third harvests
1. The three pilgrimage festivals map to the three harvests.
2. The first (Passover) was to barley.
3. The second (Shavuot) was to wheat. Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover. In this it is the equivalent of Pentecost for Christians (fifty days after Easter).
NB: The third (Sukkoth) is to the grape harvest. The last harvest before the winter — a Jewish Thanksgiving.
THE TRADITION OF STAYING UP ALL NIGHT TO STUDY THE TORAH (a form of penance for over-sleeping? have you ever done this?)
1. The official name of the practice is “Tikkun Leil Shavuot” (repairing the night of Shavuot).
2. The practice is traced back to the Jewish mystical text the Zohar of the 13 century and to Rabbi Avram Gombiner of the 17 century.
3. “There is a Midrash (ie. exegesis, commentary on a text) which states that on the morning of the Revelation at Sinai the Jewish people overslept. God descended upon Mount Sinai to give the Torah to Israel, and we hadn’t even arrived yet! Moses had to rouse us and hurry us over to the mountain for this earth-shattering event. To make up for this, we stay up the entire night of Shavuot — in order to be absolutely certain we will be awake Shavuot morning, when the episode of the Revelation is recounted in the synagogue.”
THE CHEESECAKE THING — remember that the Torah is “mother’s milk”
1. “Shavuot usually occurs in late spring or early summer, which was when, in pre-industrial times, cows would be giving birth and farmers would have a ready supply of milk.”
2. “For the same reason, spring was the traditional time of year for cheese-making — so farmers could preserve the abundance of milk to last for the rest of the year.”
3. “Among Ashkenazi Jews, or those from eastern and northern Europe, popular dairy dishes for Shavuot include cheesecake, cheese-filled crêpes called blintzes, noodle kugel made with sour cream or cottage cheese, and triangular, cheese-filled dumplings called kreplach.”
NB: “For Sephardic Jews — the descendants of those who fled the Iberian peninsula in the 1500’s to the Mediterranean, North Africa or the Levant — the traditional Shavuot dairy foods are a bit different and include a lot of savory, filled pastries. Bourekas, which are flaky, stuffed pastries that originated in Turkey, are a favorite at Shavuot, especially those filled with feta or or other mild white cheese. In Israel, families with Spanish and Italian heritage often serve pasta filled with a local sheep’s milk cheese on Shavuot.”
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.