The Jewish holiday of Shavuot is a practical observance. While it recognizes the anniversary of God giving the Torah to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, the holiday is marked by counting the 50 days from Passover to Shavuot.
Rabbi Brian Glusman, director of community outreach and engagement for the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Dunwoody, says that the practice of saying a blessing that counts each day links Shavuot to Passover.
“It’s as if to say our freedom at Passover is dependent upon our acceptance of law. Freedom without order or responsibility is chaos; we need a higher authority,” he said.
Glusman said that one of the ways to celebrate the receiving of the Torah is to stay up all night studying it. “We’re always in the process of receiving Torah or receiving teaching,” he said, likening the practice to renewing one’s commitment to God.
Another way to celebrate Shavuot, Glusman said, is to consume dairy products. “Dairy represents nourishment, and we celebrate the way in which we are nourished through God.”
He said folks often eat cheesecake and cheese blintzes to mark the day. “We call it the holiday of cholesterol,” he said.
Kelly Cohen, a Judaics Studies teacher at Davis Academy, notes an agricultural component of Shavuot, which coincides with the wheat harvest in ancient Israel that started at Passover and lasted for seven weeks. At the end of the seven weeks on Shavuot, people would bring offerings of wheat to the Temple.
Cohen says that fifth graders at Davis are chosen during the morning announcements to say the blessing counting the days leading up to Shavuot.
“It’s considered an honor for the fifth-graders to say the blessing,” she said, adding that Shavuot generally falls around the end of the school year, so as the children are counting up to the holiday, they are also counting down to the last day of school.
“It’s nice when those things line up,” Cohen said. She added that the school usually celebrates its Field Day on or near the 33rd day of counting, which typically is celebrated with bonfires.
She said that during the Shavuot period Davis students also study Torah, learn about the 10 Commandments, play counting games and make crowns symbolizing earning the “crown of Torah.”
This year Shavuot takes place beginning the evening of Tuesday, June 3, and ending the evening of Thursday, June 5.
AA Synagogue hosts an all-night learning event for Shavuot from 6:30 p.m. on June 3 to 7:30 a.m. on June 4. For more information: www.aasynagogue.org.
Congregation Beth Shalom hosts a night of Shavuot study at the home of Rabbi Mark and Linda Zimmerman starting at 7:45 p.m. on June 3. The congregation also hosts two Shavuot services on June 3 and 4, both at 9:30 a.m. For more information: www.bshalom.net.
Congregation Beth Tefillah/Chabad of Georgia serves a dairy luncheon for Shavuot on June 4 at 12:30 p.m. For more information: www.bethtefillah.org.
Congregation B’nai Torah hosts three different Shavuot study sessions at three different locations on the night of June 3, starting at 8. There will also be Shavuot services on June 3 and 4: morning services at Weber at 9, youth services at Weber at 10:30 a.m., Kiddush at Weber at noon, and Mincha at the Carleton at 6:15 p.m. For more information: www.bnaitorah.org.
Congregation Or Hadash holds a Shavuot study session starting at 8:30 p.m. on June 3 and a morning service at 9:15 on June 4. For more information: www.or-hadash.org.
Temple Sinai hosts a Shavuot service in the chapel on June 4 from 11 a.m. to noon, which will then be followed by a Lunch and Learn from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. For more information: www.templesinaiatlanta.org.
The Kehilla in Sandy Springs has all-night Shavuot learning from 10 p.m. June 3 to 2 a.m. June 4 For more information: www.thekehilla.org.
The Temple will have a Shavuot service on June 4 from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Covenant Chapel. For more information: www.the-temple.org.
– compiled by Jenna Goff