Posted by: Subway Conductor | May 5, 2008

May 2008

From Rabbi Michael Arsers: 

Now that Passover is behind us, the next major Jewish holiday is Shavout. Most Jews are aware when the holiday of Passover is close at hand. So are they aware when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are on the calendar. Even Hanukkah is observed by most American Jews. But Shavout could come and go without being noticed by the majority of Jews.

Is it an unimportant holiday? Not at all. It is one of the most important. Shavout is the holiday that marks the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People on Mount Sinai. What could be more important than that?

Perhaps the reason that Shavout seems to be less “popular” than some other Jewish holidays is that it has no rituals that are specifically identified with it. There is no Seder, no Lulav and Esrog, no Menorah. Of course, we make Kiddush and light candles, as we do every Friday evening but Shavout is a holiday with a ritual of its own. So what should we do on Shavout?

The first thing is to go to Synagogue. The second thing we should do is study the Torah. Since Shavout is the holiday of the “giving of the Torah,” it is certainly appropriate to study the Torah during this holiday. Some have the custom of staying up all night on Shavout to study. Not all of us are ready or able to go so far, but every one of us can spend some time learning Torah during Shavout.

The study of the Torah is what has kept the Jewish people alive through all the centuries. Are you not sure if this is true? Then look at what our enemies have done in the past. The ancient Romans made the study of the Torah a capital offense. They realized that if the Jewish people do not study the Torah, they will not survive. The former Soviet Union was almost successful in wiping out the identity of millions of Jews. How did they accomplish it? By prohibiting Jews from studying and teaching Judaism. The study of the Torah is the lifeblood of Judaism.

This Shavout, let each of us make a new commitment to the study of the Torah and of Judaism. Shavout is the best time to make this commitment. There may not be specific ritual connected with this holiday, but it is the ideal time to commit ourselves to the most basic of Jewish acts – study.

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