A Shavuot Social Action Guide

Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah atop Mount Sinai, signifying the sacred covenant between God and the Jewish people. The period of the Omer(the) Omer הָעֹמֶרThe 49-day period that begins on the second night of Passover and ends on Shavuot. (the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot) and the evening of Shavuot itself are times of preparation for reliving the moment of revelation, and the entire Shavuot season is a time to re-engage with Torah.

It has been said that the entire Torah exists to establish justice. Thus, through the study of Torah and other Jewish texts, Shavuot offers us an opportunity to recommit ourselves to tikkun olamtikkun olamתִּקּוּן עוֹלָם"Repair of the world;" Jewish concept that it is our responsibility to partner with God to improve the world. A mystical concept of restoration of God's holiest Name to itself and the repair of a shattered world. Often refers to social action and social justice. , the repair of the world.  

You can incorporate social action themes into your Shavuot celebration in the following ways. As you celebrate and take action, please follow CDC COVID-19 guidelines when engaging in these activities.

COMMIT TO RACIAL JUSTICE

At a Tikkun Leil ShavuotTikkun Leil Shavuotתִּקּוּן לֵיל שָׁבוּעוֹתA celebration specific to the holiday of Shavuot, it includes a late-night – or even all-night – study of Torah and Jewish texts that commemorates receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.  celebration, people stay up late into the night, if not all night, studying Jewish texts. Shavuot is a perfect moment to discuss and honor our tradition’s deep-rooted imperative to pursue racial justice. As you read ancient and modern Jewish texts, elevate the stories of Jews of Color, and incorporate antiracism resources into your Jewish learning. Commit to engaging more deeply in racial justice work, and reflect on how we can look internally to make our own Jewish communities more inclusive.

Learn more and get involved with the Reform Movement’s Racial Justice Campaign.

FEED THE HUNGRY

The holiday of Shavuot is mentioned several times in the Bible. In Leviticus (23:22), Shavuot is linked to the commandments of pei-ah (leaving crops at the corners of the field for the poor) and sh’chicha (leaving the fallen grain for the poor). Even as we celebrate the first fruits and the bounty of the land, we are to remember those in need. Jews are commanded to provide for the stranger, the orphan and the widow (Deut. 24:19). Hence, rejoicing on Shavuot is incomplete unless even the poorest and most vulnerable members of society have enough to eat. 

Today, we can continue to fulfill these commandments by serving the hungry in our own communities. In accordance with health and safety protocol, prepare homemade food for a soup kitchen, assemble bagged lunches, donate nonperishable goods, or volunteer your time at a local organization. You can search for food pantries in your community at AmpleHarvest.org.

COLLECT ITEMS FOR CHARITY

Jewish scholars took to heart the commandment to set aside a portion of the harvest for the poor. Rabbis connect pei-ah with other actions on which there is no fixed upper measure: the amount of first fruits, acts of loving-kindness and the study of Torah, all of which remind us of what the rabbis considered—as should we—to be truly important in life.

On Shavuot, make canned goods, new socks and underwear, school supplies, or unused toiletries the admission “price” to a Tikkun Leil Shavuot celebration. Donate these items to a nonprofit that is requesting donated goods, such as a homeless shelter or a shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

BECOME A TUTOR

While Torah study and education are timeless Jewish themes, they are especially resonant during Shavuot, the season of matan Torah, the giving of the Torah. Too often, inequitable education contributes to the cycle of poverty. We can make a difference in the lives of historically underserved children by sharing our love of learning and literacy.

During the summer months, schools and libraries need volunteers in special programs for youth; tutoring can make a significant difference in their lives. Many organizations offer online volunteer tutoring opportunities. Tutoring programs often require that volunteers make a months-long commitment to ensure continuity for the children and adults in the program. Shavuot is the perfect time to make such a commitment for the coming academic year.

BEAUTIFY YOUR AREA

There is a legend that when the Torah was revealed at Mount Sinai, the mountain blossomed with beautiful flowers. To remind us of the beauty of Mount Sinai and the beauty of the Torah, it is customary on Shavuot to decorate our homes and synagogues with flowers and greenery.

Carry this tradition a step further by spending part of Shavuot or the Omer working in a community garden or participating in a park clean-up in your area. Continue this important work by also advocating for environmental protection and justice with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.