On Sunday, May 23, my son Noam will be ordained as a Rabbi from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. This is taking place twenty-eight years after my own ordination from JTS in 1993. I am looking forward to celebrating this special day with Noam as I will have the privilege of offering him a blessing during the ceremony. I will include the link to the ceremony in our weekly e-newsletter as the date gets closer. Noam will become Director of Education and Programming at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires and will also be pursuing a Ph.D. at Yeshiva University in the intellectual history of medieval Halachah (Jewish Law). I look forward to welcoming Noam as a colleague in the Rabbinical Assembly (the international association of Conservative rabbis) where he will join his aunt, my sister Helene, and his father-in-law, Gordon Bernat-Kunin.
The holiday of Shavuot which begins on Sunday evening, May 16, celebrates the revelation at Mount Sinai. It marks the time God was revealed to the Jewish people which changed our relationship forever. What I find interesting is that of all the Jewish holidays that are mentioned in the Torah, only Shavuot is not assigned a date. The other holidays specifically are given a date for us to observe them. Shavuot’s date is not stated but, rather, given in relation to when Pesach takes place. We are told that Shavuot begins 50 days after we begin counting the Omer on the second night of Pesach. I think the reason that Pesach and Shavuot are so intertwined is that we cannot have Shavuot without Pesach. We needed to not only become free on Pesach by being released from Egyptian slavery, we needed to take time to taste and experience freedom before we were ready to receive the Torah on Shavuot.
On Pesach we became a people, but it was not until Shavuot that we became a nation as we received the laws that would govern us. A specific date is not assigned The Monthly Newsletter of Beth El Synagogue MAY 2021 MAY 2021 continued on p. 2 IYAR/SIVAN 5781 IYAR/SIVAN 5781 for Shavuot as it is dependent on Pesach. It took those seven weeks between the two holidays to begin our maturation process that led to the revelation we experienced on Shavuot. The Torah we received on Shavuot serves as our most important symbol. It is the roadmap that sets the path for the way in which we lead our lives every day. When we study Torah (or any Jewish text), we enrich our lives and elevate our souls. Studying Torah helps ground us and puts into perspective what is important in life. I hope that you will take the time and participate in our many adult education offerings. I look forward to studying with you. Since the Torah is the symbol of Shavuot, there is a tradition to stay up all night on the first night of Shavuot to study Torah.
Please join us for services and our Tikkun Leyl Shavuot on Sunday, May 16, at 8 p.m. After Mincha and Maariv, I will teach a class and then Rabbi Nover will teach a class. You will receive a cheesecake On the Go when you leave the synagogue. We will conclude by about 11:30 p.m., but please feel free to come and go throughout the night. Shavuot services will continue on Monday, May 17, at 9:30 a.m. and 7:50 p.m., and on Tuesday, May 18, at 9:30 a.m. Yizkor will be recited during the service on the second day of Shavuot. On Saturday morning, May 15, during 9 a.m. services, we will be having our College Send Off Ceremony for those who are going to college for the first time in the fall. We look forward to hearing which colleges our high school graduates will be attending as we offer them Beth El blessings on their new journey. Mazel Tov to all of our graduates! Our first outside Friday night service of the season will take place on Friday, May 21, at 6 p.m. During this service we will be celebrating Confirmation of our tenth grade class. I have really enjoyed studying with this year’s class, half of the students in-person and half on Zoom. When we started to talk about the Confirmation ceremony, all of the students insisted that they wanted to have an in-person service and we made it happen. I look forward to what I know will be a wonderful evening as we enjoy the outdoors and hear the Torah that our students will teach us. My family joins me in wishing you a happy, healthy and joyous Shavuot. May we take the time to study Torah and enjoy cheesecake and other dairy products throughout the holiday. Chag Sameach!
—Rabbi Jay M. Kornsgold