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Put Down That Remote! -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 05/25/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

May 25, 2023 5 Sivan 5783 Erev ShavuotJust last week, I shared how I was flipping through the channels when I stumbled across a PSA celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month (click here). Something caught my eye, and I was so happy that I stopped on that channel at exactly the right moment. Well, tonight we flip to the Festival of Shavuot. Shavuot has no menorahs. It has no booths, no matzahs and no greggers. As a result, we might flip right by it as we are scrolling through the channels of Jewish life. But that would be a mistake, because Shavuot has all the elements of a “must-watch” movie. First of all, it has a compelling story. On Shavuot, we celebrate the giving—and receiving!—of the Torah. It defies logic that a collection of stories, laws and customs from centuries ago has been passed down through the generations so that it lives on today in the form of Judaism. While the Torah has been interpreted and reinterpreted many times to ensure that it continues to speak truth in every generation, it is the same text that our ancestors received and studied many centuries ago. In addition, the Festival of Shavuot can distract us and make us feel better. After all, there’s cheesecake—need I say more? All joking aside, when we take time out of our busy lives to turn off our phones, tune out our outside obligations and focus on our families and our traditions, we are doing ourselves a BIG favor. Whether we participate in a traditional late-night study session—called a “Tikkun”—or pick up a book with a Jewish theme, we are taking a short break from the craziness of our lives. Delicious dairy foods—blintzes, ice cream and more!—are just a bonus. By the way, we’ll be doing ALL of these things at the synagogue tonight starting at 5:45pm. Please join us for SHAVUOT NIGHT LIVE! Finally, the Festival of Shavuot can transport us to a different time and place. We can imagine ourselves as part of the generation that first received the Torah. Or we can imagine ourselves like Ruth (it is customary to read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot). Often considered the first Jew by choice, she declared that she was going to accept God and be part of our people even though it was not the community into which she was born. Or we can try to place ourselves in any other time or place in Jewish history. Sometimes it takes that kind of thought exercise for those of us born in the community to fully appreciate our Jewishness. So, put down that remote control and stay right here on this channel. Let’s celebrate Shavuot! Chag Same’ach! Shalom, RAF.

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