Shavuot was originally an agricultural festival to mark the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. Israelites went on a pilgrimage bringing crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Although it began as this harvest festival bringing the first fruits to the Temple as a gift to God, Shavuot is the time we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
After the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites went to Mount Sinai where Moses ascended the mountain to meet God and received the Ten Commandments. Shavuot means “weeks”, which refers to the 49 days—seven weeks—it took for them to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai. “And you shall proclaim that day (the 50th day) to be a holy convocation!” (Leviticus 23:21).
Ruth was a young Moabite woman who married an Israelite man. When her husband died, she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Israel and adopted the Jewish faith and people as her own. She met Boaz while working in his wheat fields and they married. Among their descendants is King David.
The Book of Ruth is read on Shavuot because, like the holiday, it takes place during the wheat harvest. “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Accepting the Torah, just as Jews accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai, this passage is considered to be Ruth’s conversion statement.
It is the custom at Shavuot for teenagers to participate in the ceremony of Confirmation, introduced by Reform Judaism in the early part of the 19th century. They “confirm” their commitment to Judaism, to Jewish life, and to Congregation Rodeph Sholom. Join us to celebrate our Confirmands.
Do you have a Confirmation memory to share? Please post it in our Facebook Community Room.
MY CONFIRMATION, MY SELF
I remember it clearly. I was 14 years old and wearing a white dress with a light pink ribbon running through its waist. In my temple’s large and majestic sanctuary, in front of a packed house, I took my place in the procession. I was one of ten who were going to lead the Service that morning in front of our entire congregation. More than a ceremony, I was affirming my commitment to the Jewish people, to my heritage.
My Confirmation might be a lifetime ago, but its significance resonates with me still. As I know it will be for the Rodeph Sholom Confirmation Class of 5781. Rabbi Lance Sussman speaks of Confirmation as “revolutionizing Jewish education and blazing educational and religious pathways for Jewish women.” Indeed, it made me feel that I had a place in Jewish tradition, that I might even be an active participant, and perhaps even make a difference.
On a holiday celebrating the three C’s – commitment, commemoration, and cheesecake – it is Confirmation that is the most important C of all. For once one is a Confirmand, one is always a Confirmand – committed to one’s congregation, to Israel, and to one’s everlasting faith. (Yvette Perry)
“We are holy people – and all of us are holy – and our worth to others is
ultimately going to derive from how we act.” (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin)
It has been said that the Torah exists to establish justice. Thus, through the study of Torah and other Jewish texts, Shavuot offers the opportunity to recommit ourselves to tikkun olam, the repair of the world. We can incorporate social action themes into our Shavuot celebration in many ways. As Reform Jews, we are called to continue the fight for racial justice and fulfill the sacred work of creating a more just, compassionate, and whole world. Check out the Reform Jewish Community’s Take Action Through Racial Justice Campaign.
On Shavuot, we stay up all night studying and eating dairy foods to remind us that the words of Torah are sweet—like milk and honey. It has become traditional to eat milk and cheese products as part of honoring Shavuot. Followed by a slice of cheesecake, of course! Enjoying this delicious Italian Cheesecake and Challah Cheese Soufflé for Shavuot is a reminder to live a sweet life, a Jewish life, with an emphasis on Torah and education.
1½ cups plus 2 Tbsps flour
3 Tbsps sugar
6 Tbsps unsalted butter
½ tsp vanilla
1 pound ricotta cheese
½ pound cream cheese
3 Tbsps flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Grated zest of ½ lemon
4 egg whites
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup crushed pineapple, drained
How to Make It
1-1 1/2 medium challahs (approximately 12 cups of challah cubes)
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups milk (whole, 1% or 2%)
1 teaspoon salt
10 grindings of freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
12–16 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese or Jarlsberg cheese (about 3 1/2 cups grated)
Additional butter or cooking spray for greasing the pan