The cycle of the Jewish year always keeps us going — round and round! It is so wonderful to have special markers for so many days of the year, yet so often there are holidays that we do not know enough about. At the J, we always hear, “It must be some holiday if the J is closed.” Yes, SOME holiday is coming up and it is an important one. Shavuot is one of the “three biggies” — the shalosh reggalim. This holiday is one of the pilgrimage holidays (reggel = foot) when Jews used to go to the Temple to give sacrifices. We celebrate and remember our agricultural roots with these three holidays. However, today we celebrate Shavuot for the most important reason — it celebrates the moment at Mt. Sinai when we were given the Torah. Any time we can celebrate Torah is a wonderful opportunity for our children to be taught the importance of learning!
Unfortunately, Shavuot does not have much ritual to go along with it. It is a synagogue holiday with special prayers added and there is the tradition (with a few reasons, of course) of eating dairy food — blintzes have become a favorite for many. But there is one other ritual that is great for older kids especially: tikkun leyl Shavuot. It is an “all-nighter” at the synagogue to show our devotion to Torah and our appreciation for having received it. We stay awake all night, in small groups, studying Jewish texts and ideas. In the morning, when we pray, we begin in darkness and the sun rises as we say the words of “G-d who creates light.” It is a very magical moment to share with your children and with the community. The magic and mystery of Shavuot will belong to our children who experience a long night reading the stories of the Israelites standing at Mt. Sinai — it really feels like you are there! (Especially in Texas when we can get a little thunder and lightning!)
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.