Well, this year the garden’s a little wilder and life’s a little messier. Sorry I’ve not gotten around to decorating my Shavuot table with peonies. Though Kveller’s Bethany Herwegh did and it’s simply lovely.
(I do so adore the Pintrest-y direction Jewish lifestyles blogs are taking! Even if makes me feel like the worst Jewish mother ever. I bet Bethany is a true balabusta who never forgets to replenish the Shabbos candles and has to use jack o’lantern votives scrounged from the junk drawer. *sigh*.)
You’ve got to admit, Shavuot is not the Jewish holidays cycle’s most thrilling point on the pinwheel. This year it falls into June, and with school out and everyone already in full-on summer mode and I’m more in the mood for margarita pie than I am for cheesecake.
But then my Jewish guilt gets all riled, and I go looking for a little Torah knowledge, since Shavuot is a harvest festival meant to celebrate the giving of the tablets to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Or is it?
Elon Gilad writes in Ha’aretz that with its uncertain name and twisted history, Shavuot might not even be a holy day at all:
In its earliest stages, during the First Temple period, Shavuot was an appendage to Passover, the first of the two major agricultural holidays. Shavuot marked the end of the festival (Atzeret) of the 50-day period called the Omer, between the harvest of barley – Passover – and the harvest of wheat.
During First Temple times, two loaves would have been baked out of that first batch o’ barley, brought to Jerusalem and used in a massive ritual he rightfully deems “complicated, bloody, and expensive.” Gilad explains that according to the Torah, the loaves were “waved before The Lord” with wine and “a complicated array of animal sacrifices.”
That kind of partying just simply isn’t sustainable, and the practice was wildly adapted over the years until somehow—and no one really knows, not even the most sagacious among us—we got to cheesecake and blintzes.
Gilad concludes with good-natured realism that while all-night study sessions that include the Book of Ruth are still the rage in the yeshivas, most less-than-pious Jews don’t get too fancy about Shavuout other than to eat some dairy deliciousness.
So maybe I shouldn’t feel so badly, sitting here with my peony-less table and my blintz-less freezer.
But now that I’m aware of my farblogence, I can’t stop thinking about Shavuot and its opportunity to absorb its compelling and confusing spiritual gifts.
Maybe I can work up a hankering for a pizza.