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Your 2018 Shavuot Guide

Shavuot is here! For those wanting a quick refresher on the holiday, here’s a 2-minute Q&A to curb your curiosity.

Q) “What’s Shavuot?” 

A) Shavuot, AKA: “Feast of the Weeks”, is a two-day holiday celebrated 50 days after the first Passover seder (this year,  it goes from sundown on May 19 to sundown on May 21), marking the end of the 50 day counting period between the two holidays. It is believed that the Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot more than 3,300 years ago. To celebrate, it is customary to stay up all night long learning Torah. This is called a Tikkun Leil Shavuot. In recent years, many Jews have started to reimagine Shavuot…engaging not only with traditional Torah texts, but also with more contemporary texts and art. Learn more.

Q) “Do I get the day off work for this?”

A) Technically, we’re not supposed to work on Shavuot. We’re supposed to rest, eat a lot of dairy products (get those Lactaid pills ready), and dive into hardcore Torah study. But, how you choose to celebrate is ultimately up to you.

Q) “Do I have to fast for this one?”

A) Fret not. Rather than fasting, Shavuot involves eating a lot of cheesecake and milkshakes. There’s several reasons for eating dairy meals on this holiday, here’s a few.

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Sound like a holiday you could get into? Why not start this year? Here’s some fun Shavuot happenings across DC this month:

Events

Don’t see your event listed? Submit it to our calendar, and then shoot us an email.

Saturday, May 19

Sunday, May 20

 

Food for Shavuot

Shavuot Guide 2017/5777

Also known as “Feast of the Weeks,” you may know Shavuot as “The Holiday Where We Eat Cheesecake.”

Not only does the holiday, which begins the evening of May 30th and ends the evening of June 1st, have several names, it also celebrates more than one religious observance. Shavuot both celebrates the early summer’s grain harvest (in Israel) and also G-d giving the Torah on Mount Sinai to the Jewish people. It has become customary to eat dairy and study, debate and analyze Torah late into the night. This is called a Tikkun Leil Shavuot. In recent years, many Jews have started to reimagine Shavuot…engaging not only with traditional Torah texts, but also with more contemporary texts and art.

However you decide to mark the holiday, we’ve got your guide for doing it in DC!

Events

Missing something? Submit it to our calendar, and then shoot us an email.

May 22nd

THE TEN – Jews and Muslims in America: Political Challenges and Moral Opportunities

May 24th

Shavuot: It’s Complicated

May 25th

What They Saw at Sinai at Sixth & I

May 30th

Shavuot @ Adas Israel: Recreating the Space Between Heaven and Earth

Shavuot with Tikkun Leil Shabbat and Bet Mishpachah

Shavuot Part I: Dessert Oneg and All-Night Learning with Chabad

May 31st

Shavuot Part II: 10 Commandments and Dairy Buffet at Chabad

June 7th

The Unkosher Comedy Tour: Up All Night

Food for Shavuot

Our Picks for the Top 5 Places for Cheesecake in DC

Shavuot Recipes from Federation’s Jewish Food Experience

Shavuot, without Cheese (via Tablet)

Recipes for a Sans Dairy Shavuot (via Federation’s Jewish Food Experience)

New Addition to On Rye’s Menu for Shavuot – Dairy-Based Push Pops

More Shavuot Resources

My Jewish Learning – Shavuot Basics

The Best Cheese Puns Ever via Buzzfeed

Video: Why Do Jews Eat Cheesecake on Shavuot? –

Video: Sixth & I’s Rabbi Shira Stutman Talks Shavuot –

Video: This Hilarious Song –

DC Shavuot Events

tenOn Shavuot we celebrate receiving the Torah and it is traditional to study Torah through the night.  This year Shavuot begins on the evening of Tuesday, May 14th. We’ve compiled a few event options for Shavuot and will continue to update the list so check back.

Monday, May 13th:

Tuesday, May 14th:

Wednesday, May 15th:

Shavout – What it Means to Receive the Torah

Will Gotkin is a regular contributor to Gather the Jews.

Shavuot celebrates matan Torah, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. On this day the Ten Commandments were uttered before the entire congregation of the children of Israel. But the holiday not only commemorates the giving, but the receiving of the Torah as well. What does it mean to receive the Torah?

The Torah tells us that the Jewish people readily accepted it declaring “na’eseh v’nishma” (‘we will do and then we’ll hear’). Every Shavuot we receive the Torah all over again.

The Torah is G-d’s blueprint for the world and for humanity. Its 613 commandments are tools that we utilize to connect with the Creator of the universe. Every single mitzvah – no matter how insignificant it may seem to us – is an unbreakable connection with eternity.

Some people object to the idea of accepting the Torah, saying: “All that matters is that you are a good person. I am already a good person so what use do I have for all these laws and rituals prescribed by the Torah?”

While the question is understandable it reveals a lack of understanding. It is true that being a good person is primary. Someone who observes Shabbat, but cheats in their business dealings is seriously lacking in their service of G-d. However, the Jew who treats others with kindness, but doesn’t observe Shabbat is also missing out on the purpose of life.

All of the laws of the Torah can be broken down into two parts – those that we understand intuitively and those we do not. The ethical laws are usually more easily understood. Then there are laws like keeping kosher and not mixing wool and linen in the same garment. These have no rational basis discernable through finite human reason and intellect. “We will do and then we’ll hear” means that we try our best to fulfill G-d’s commandments – even the ones we don’t understand. We have good enough reason to trust that G-d knows what is best for us.

The Torah teaches us not only to be good, but to be holy as well. What does it mean to be holy? Holiness means being separate. By giving us the Torah, G-d made us a holy people. There are plenty of good Jews who are not observant, but without the observance of the laws many dismiss as “ritualistic,” a Jew cannot actualize his inborn potential for holiness. Popular radio show host, Dennis Prager points out that even in secular life we have a concept similar to that of holiness. For example, he says, a person who eats spaghetti by burying his face in the plate and eating it in a messy fashion will be told that he is eating like an animal. The person is not evil or immoral, but he is nonetheless behaving like an animal. To be holy means to go beyond our animal nature and to do things that separate us from simply obeying our animal urges and instincts. Rather than being restrictive the Torah frees us from being slaves to these often self-destructive urges. Our modern society of “anything goes” and “do what feels good” has not produced happier people. Some boundaries in life are necessary and healthy. Plus even the non-rational laws are imbued with ethical and moral teachings that can be seen by those who study them in depth.

Receiving the Torah is to accept that there is a right way and a wrong way to conduct one’s life. As Jews we have a special responsibility to not only be good, but to be holy. Not only that, but those who claim they are “good” without Torah may be surprised to find out that the Torah demands a higher standard of goodness than what they may feel is necessary. There is good, and there is great. The Torah teaches us to be great. How do we define goodness? One person’s definition of good may be different from another’s. Who is to say what is right? The Torah brought a universal moral standard into the world. Only G-d can decide what is moral and what is not. The Torah conditions us to get beyond ourselves and our personal egos so that we can get to the truth. In this way we can become kinder, gentler, and more compassionate.

The Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai as a united people – “like one people with one heart.” Jewish unity is also an important precondition to receiving the Torah. This year let us all resolve to study Torah, do more mitzvot – both the interpersonal and the non-rational ones – and develop more love for our fellow Jews. In this way we will soon merit the long awaited redemption.