Today/this week.

So… today, I gave presentations about the holiday of Shavuot (complete with cheesecake!) in each of my kids’ classrooms, in between also attending their talent shows.

This after staying up until 1:15 finishing a work project, planning my presentations, and making the cheesecakes.

This after spending the day working my butt off in the morning, spending way too much time in bad, construction-plagued traffic off and on all afternoon, having an hour-long appointment with my naturopath/acupuncturist turn into a two-and-a-half hour-long experience which has subsequently served as an example of how sometimes healing (in this case, of the plantar fasciitis in my left foot) begins with pain, and then going to the boy’s year-end orchestra concert (all before then staying up until 1:15, etc, etc).

Yesterday came after a holiday, so that was nice, but the day before the holiday? Tuesday? I had a tooth pulled because it had started to hurt so much that I called the dentist and said “you know that tooth? I think we’re done trying to save it,” and he gave me an oral surgeon’s number, who said they could actually take me in two hours, so I went, and then the bleeding wouldn’t stop so I went back and that’s how my holiday started: With a mouth full of gauze, the bleeding finally slowed by stitches and silicone, and me unable even to make the blessings with my family (not to mention eat with them) because I wasn’t allowed to talk for most of the evening.

Monday? I can’t remember Monday at this point, but it probably kind of sucked, too.

All of this to say: I’ve been trying all day (between presentations and talent show performances, of course) to either do work for which I am contracted and will be paid, OR to write a blog post, and I have not been able to manage either. My tank appears to be on empty. My mind certainly is.

So. We’re going to call this a post! But in order to sweeten the deal a bit, I’ll give you this, a rather different version of Beyonce’s execrable (IMO) song “All The Single Ladies”: All The Scholar Ladies. (And I’ll tell you what, I throw in my presentation to the kids about Shavuot after the jump, just in case you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, and you’re curious).

Shabbat shalom and a lovely weekend to all!

The Jewish Holiday of Shavuot

I’m really glad I get to be here today to talk about Shavuot, the holiday we celebrated earlier this week. I don’t usually get to do this, because Shavuot usually comes in early summer, after school is out – this year, though, it came a little early, so I get to be here.

Shavuot one of Judaism’s holiest days – but most people in America (even a lot of Jewish people) have never heard of it!

Shavuot is the holiday on which we celebrate getting the Torah, or Jewish law. The Bible says that God gave us our Law at a mountain in the desert called Mt. Sinai. A story that our teachers have told us is that the soul of every Jew who ever lived or ever will live was there to accept the law when God gave it to us.

When I talked to you about Passover, earlier in the spring, I explained that that’s the holiday when we celebrate escaping from slavery into freedom. We talked about how freedom is certainly much better than slavery – but it’s not necessarily easy. You have to be able to make your own decisions, and hopefully, your decisions and choices will be good ones – decisions that help make the world a better place, choices that help your people, decisions that keep you healthy and living a life you can be proud of.

So the story we tell is that when the Israelite slaves left Egypt, they weren’t really ready for all the responsibility! It’s hard to go from slavery to freedom – it would be like going from being a baby to being a grown up in one day. You have to take some time, to grow up and become more mature.

So the Israelites spent about seven weeks walking toward Mt. Sinai, slowly but surely learning to trust God and themselves. And finally, when they were ready, God gave them the Law that told them how Jewish people should act, laws that took them from being a messy bunch of ex-slaves, and made them into a people, with shared ideas and a shared culture. Laws like “don’t steal,” and “respect your parents,” and “celebrate these certain days as your holidays,” and (here’s a funny one) “don’t eat meat and milk together”!

Not all Jewish laws (like that last one!) seem to make sense. But even if we don’t keep all the laws – a lot of Jewish people do eat meat and milk together, for instance – we remember them, because they are our history, and our history is what makes us a people.

So I would even say that Shavuot is probably the most important Jewish holiday – because without the Torah, without the Law that we were given on Mt. Sinai, there wouldn’t even be a Jewish people!

And in fact, originally, Shavuot was one of Judaism’s three most important holidays – one of the three holidays on which everyone was expected to travel to our temple in Jerusalem and celebrate together.

But almost 2,000 years ago, that temple was destroyed, and many things have changed in the meantime! For one thing, in America, a lot of Jewish culture is centered on our religious schools, usually called Hebrew school. And Hebrew school only runs as long as the regular school year – and like I said, Shavuot almost always falls after school is out for the summer. So a lot of kids never really learn about it, and families kind of forget about it. That’s what happens sometimes in religions and in cultures – important things change for surprising, and often kind of odd, reasons!

Now, I brought in a cheesecake today because it’s traditional to eat milk-based foods on Shavuot. Why is that? No one’s really sure! But one of the stories we tell is that because the Israelites had just gotten their new Law, and God said: “Don’t eat meat with milk” – they had to clean all their old pots and pans before they could make any meat-based food, so they just ate milk stuff for the time being. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense, but that’s the story we tell! And it’s always nice to have cheesecake to eat.


  1. dmf

     /  May 21, 2010

    i’ll assume that my cheesecake is in the mail, jeez woman what week hope that you have the time and space this weeekend to rest and heal, peaceful sabbath to you too.

  2. Cheesecake? I have a new favorite holiday!

    Plantar fasciitis is very sucky, my sympathies. I hope you are not on statin drugs; they can bring that on. My best to you!