Search URJ.org and the other Reform websites:

Shavuot

Answer By: 
George Robinson
open Torah scroll

Since the Rabbinic period, Shavuot has been tied to the story of receiving the Torah. Connected to this, Shavuot has come to be dedicated to the idea of Torah study and Jewish education. One custom is an all-night [or late night] study session held on the first evening of the festival, called tikkun leil Shavuot. This custom, which had its beginning in the community of kabbalists centered around sixteenth-century Safed, is designed to prepare Jews for “receiving” the Torah again on Shavuot.

See also: 
What is a Confirmation?
Tikkun Leil Shavuot Videos and Study Guides

George Robinson is the author of the critically acclaimed Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs and Rituals (revised edition, Atria Books, 2016) and Essential Torah: A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses (Schocken Books, 2006). Mr. Robinson is the film critic for The Jewish Week, the largest Jewish newspaper in North America, and a frequent contributor to Hadassah Magazine. He is adjunct assistant professor of media studies at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and has been critic-in-residence at several Jewish film festivals around the country. Robinson was a contributor to the recent edition of Encyclopedia Judaica and has written frequently for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsday, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly. Mr. Robinson lives in New York City with his wife Margalit Fox, a reporter for the New York Times and an author in her own right.

Confirmation is a Reform-originated ceremony for boys and girls that is tied to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. It constitutes an individual and group affirmation of commitment to the Jewish people. Confirmation, one of the "youngest" Jewish life cycle ceremonies, began less than 200 years ago. Most scholars attribute the creation of confirmation to Israel Jacobson, a wealthy German businessman and a nominal "father" of Reform Judaism. In 1810, expending more than $100,000 of his own money, Jacobson built a new synagogue in Seesen, Germany. He introduced a number of then radical reforms, including the use of an organ and mixed male-female seating. Jacobson felt that bar mitzvah was an outmoded ceremony. Accordingly, when five 13-year-old boys were about to graduate from the school he maintained, Jacobson designed a new graduation ceremony, held in the school rather than the synagogue. In this manner, confirmation came into being. 

See also: Can Confirmation Slow the Exodus of Students from Jewish Life?

Answer By: 
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

The origin of this custom is unknown. It stands in contrast to the traditions surrounding other Jewish holidays, which often call for eating meat.  Since it was often more expensive than other foods, meat was reserved for celebratory events.

Rabbinic tradition has suggested a number of reasons for this custom. Chapter 4, verse 11 of The Songs of Songs compares Torah to honey and milk. As a result of this lovely comparison, it is typical on Shavuot to eat blintzes, cheesecake, and noodle kugels.

 

Subscribe to RSS - Shavuot