Shavuot excitement - a Progressive night

Growing up, Shavuot doesn't feature very strongly in my Jewish memories. I remember my mum rarely made cheesecake because she couldn't compete with her (by then late) mother in law (it is a strange curse to have a mother in law who is a fantastic baker - as mine also is, but must be that much harder when the cheesecake is a memory and not a reality!)
But cheesecake aside, I can't really remember anything about Shavuot until my university years, and then in my early 20's the excitement of attending Tikkun Leyl (all night study) at WLS, which even then was the place to be for an all-nighter on Shavuot.
For some reason, despite being one of the most important festivals biblically, Shavuot has retreated into the background for many Jews, while Chanukah, arguably one of the least important, has become the most loved and widely celebrated.  So I loved coming across this blog last Chanukah, "Dear Chanukah, I'm offended" - a letter from hard done by Shavuot to Chanukhah.
Shavuot has become one of my favourite festivals (it's a festival fight between the Shalosh Regalim - the three Pilgrim Festivals) and I think it says something very compelling to us as progressive Jews. At Pesach we celebrated freedom and liberty, important concepts to us as Jews, and as modern Westernised free thinking (as far as anyone can be!) individuals. But since then we've been counting, tracking the journey between Pesach and Shavuot, when we will celebrate the giving of Torah - symbolising covenant, responsibility, and obligation. Freedom and rights do not come without a need for us to take our responsibilities seriously, and we celebrate this by committing ourselves to a full night of study and engagement; we cannot truly engage with either our freedom of choice or our responsibility, without taking the need to inform our choices and our obligations seriously. In giving over this time we remind ourselves that freedom and responsibility are an inseparable pair, and in valuing them both, as Progressive Jews, we have to also take the importance of learning seriously. We cannot make choices without a solid ground of learning supporting us, and likewise we take much more from the mitzvot we choose to engage with when we have truly grappled with what they can mean for us, and whether they will provide any meaning, joy or comfort to our Jewish lives. So, this Shavuot, come and learn and show Shavuot that we do care, about her as a festival, but also about our freedom and responsibility, and of course, enjoy a little cheesecake!


  1. This is an excellent post. I agree with many of your points.Shavuot is my favorite holiday as well and am looking forward to soaking up Torah at Tikkun Leyl WLS saturday. Thanks for hosting it.


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