Friday, 22 May 2009

Up late, Must be Shavuot Coming

The count-up to Shavuot is reaching its climax.

The Omer has been ticking away these past 43 days and this coming Thursday evening we will celebrate.

Our celebrations at New London will involve food – of course – and learning.


Shavuot is curiously bare as a festive celebration. In Temple times it was the festival of the first fruit and pilgrims would present the priests with baskets of fruit while reciting a special formula which spoke of their place in the holy narrative of their people. When the Temple was destroyed that ritual ended and even the special formula (which begins, ‘Our ancestor was a wandering Aramean’) was stripped away from Shavuot – it is now a core part of the Passover Seder.

But just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too the Rabbis, and particularly the mystics.

First Shavuot is connected to the moment of revelation – on Sinai.

Next comes a charming midrash that suggests that the Children of Israel overslept on the night before revelation and God had to wake them/us up.

So develops the tradition of fixing the error of the night of Shavuot –literally Tikkun Leyl Shavuot – preparing ourselves through the night to arrive at the dawn ready to consider ourselves as if we personally received the revelatory experience of Sinai (and now Shavuot draws from the narrative of Passover – as if you yourself went forth from Egypt).


The theology of our community is one of liberal supernaturalism.

We are rational, we understand history, but we remain ‘souls open,’ turned towards the miraculous.

So, when it comes to Tikkun Leyl, we know it is a Rabbinic construction and we can date the origins of this piece of the ritual and that.

But to spend the night in study, to watch the sun rise in the morning and to greet the dawn with prayer is a glorious way to plug into the power of the day, the history of our people and the moment, at the heart of our Jewish experience, when God spoke at Sinai and the mountain quaked and the people saw lightening and heard thunder.


There will be Shacharit next Friday morning beginning at the normal time, but if you are persuadable, do join us for the dawn chorus. The learning through the night will be great fun, the angels may well appear and there is no better way to re-experience the moment of revelation.

Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy


No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...