The New Synagogue of Long Island
The Synagogue for Spiritual Judaism

Shavuot

 

Shavuot is the Festival of the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which occurs seven weeks after Passover. Shavuot is a two-day holiday which falls on the 6th and 7th of the Hebrew month of Sivan, this year corresponding to May 16th - May 18th.  The Torah was given by G-d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3,300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G-d’s gift, and G-d “re-gives” the Torah.  It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot because Jewish tradition compares the words of Torah to the sweetness of milk and honey. Blintzes and cheesecake are among the popular foods to make and enjoy for the holiday.

 

Traditionally, the Book of Ruth is read during services on Shavuot. Ruth was a Moabite priestess whose love for her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her love of G-d and Torah led her to convert to Judaism. Her story is a statement of enduring faith in the face of unexpected hardship. Ruth left a life of luxury in the royal palace and wound up a poverty-stricken widow. Yet, she made every twist of her story into a turn for the better.

 

Ruth Didn’t Take Her Eyes off the Goal - When Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, was prepared to return to her home in Bethlehem, she begged her widowed daughter-in-law to remain in the comfort of her home, the royal palace.  Ruth was determined to follow her mother-in-law, even if it meant struggling and poverty. She left behind all she had. She abandoned her royal past and followed her mother-in-law to a foreign land. Ruth famously told Naomi, “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”  Like Ruth, look beyond the challenges of today and remain focused on the long term. Yes, quarantine is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but see the big picture: the precautions we are taking are saving lives.

 

Ruth Rose Above Social Isolation and Scarcity - Ruth accepted upon herself a life of poverty, and, upon arriving in Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, became the object of gossip instead of the warmly welcomed friend and sister.  Ruth and her mother-in-law lived a lonely existence. To keep from starvation, Ruth went to collect fallen barley sheaves during the harvest. The Torah commands us that an owner of a field is not to cut the corners of his field but to leave them for the poor. Similarly, if one dropped grains while reaping, they were to be left for the needy. Ruth and Naomi lived from these meager gleanings and were happy with what they had.  Like Ruth, be content with what you have.

 

Ruth Articulated Her Gratitude – Although Ruth was relegated to collecting leftovers, she demonstrated gratitude even when her world seemed to have turned upside down.   Ruth’s idea of cultivating a sense of thankfulness and gratitude is an important lesson. Giving thanks and recognizing our blessings increases joy and can lead to a calmer outlook during a stressful time.

 

Ruth Knew That True Wealth Is Spiritual Richness - Ruth's outstanding commitment to moving forward in her spiritual and personal development is a powerful lesson for each of us as we prepare to receive the Torah on Shavuot once again. Life is a continuous learning experience, and as we keep rising and falling, like Ruth, we will recommit to our purpose and shine our unique individual light into the world.

 

Ruth’s faith and loyalty, coupled with a tremendous inner strength, should be a source of inspiration for all of us. During our current coronavirus hardships or the everyday dips and curves of life’s journey, stay positive, focus on the silver linings, and plow ahead with joy and love.


The Torah is Life. The Torah is Knowledge. The Torah is Love. The Torah is Joy.

 

With my best wishes for a Happy Shavuot

Rabbi Stuart A. Paris, HaKohen


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Torah Completion and Celebration

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Iyar, 5776

Rabbi Stuart Paris and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin completing the last letter of the Torah