Tuesday, May 22, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Shavuot ("first and last")

Finally we arrive at Sinai! We count 49 days (should be 50 according to the Torah but who's counting? Oh right, us...) from Passover and arrive at the foot of the mountain where we will receive the Torah. Some really cool supernatural stuff happens and we have the laws. This is probably the most little known of Jewish holidays, major or minor, but certainly one of the most important.

I have very little time so that means no analysis of the Chashmal/Merkava, the mysterious Chariot/Throne of God which kills those who successfully figure out what it looks like (see Babylonian Talmud Chagiga) found in a Haftarah that the Rabbis said is never allowed to be used as a Haftarah. Instead I will quickly review the traditions of the day. There is an acronym to remember the traditions: אחרית, meaning "the end of time". Shavuot is a very apocalyptic holiday and therefore this acronym is appropriate. Conversely, the Torah is also known as the first of things, as is God. the first word of the Torah is "In the Beginning" and consider the following from the first letter of the acronym:

א Akdamut/Akdomos Milin is an Aramaic poem that speaks in the most beautiful of language. Every line of the 90 verse poem ends in ותא- (oota) and uses the melody used for Festival Evening Kiddushes all over the year as well as calling up the special aliyot on Simchat Torah, the nusach is always known as the Akdamut nusach.

חChalav (Dairy): Blintzes, cheesecake, need I say more? Maybe: there is the tradition that kashrut took effect when the Torah was given and the Israelites didn't have the time to properly prepare meat in time for their first meal so they had dairy (didn't they have manna?) Also

ר Rut(h), Book of: the megillah chanted on Shavuot, tells the story of the first righteous convert in history (you know, besides Abraham and Yitro...) and great grandmother of King David (who was born and died on Shavuot that fell on Shabbatot 70 years apart)

י Yerek (greenery). The Sinai is often mistakenly called a desert. It was really a wilderness (or more accurately, steppes) and things did grow there. Sinai was noted for blooming excessively when the Torah was given. Therefore we turn our synagogues into forests.

ת Torah: duh.

Sorry, that's all the time I have for this one. Gut Yontif!

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