by Martin Joseph
Limmud has just launched Learning – a resource for Tikkun Leyl Shavuot in time for the upcoming chag, when there is a tradition to stay up all night learning, known as a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot. Compiled by the Limmud Chavruta team, it is Limmud’s first, downloadable Chavruta e-resource and an invitation to communities the world over to delve into Jewish texts with one or many partners on Shavuot, which begins Tuesday evening, June 3rd.
Shavuot is also known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, hence the organic connection between Limmud, which means learning, and the holiday.
“Our international Chavruta team pulled together sources about learning which explore the relationship between teachers and students, God and scripture and the ultimate purpose of learning,” said Limmud Chavruta Co-Chair Robin Cooke, , who recently made aliyah to Jerusalem armed with a degree in philosophy from Cambridge University.
But why the special study session on Shavuot eve? According to the midrash, the Children of Israel overslept on the morning the Torah was to be given. God had to awaken them with a loud shofar blast. To head off any similar lapses going forward, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the 16th century, Safed-based kabbalist also known as the “Ari,” instituted the tradition of all night learning on Shavuot eve.
Limmud’s e-resource offers a 21st century twist to the centuries old custom. “This resource is unique because it is downloadable and therefore accessible to everyone. The material is timeless and will hopefully be used again and again at Tikkun Leyl Shavuot events for years to come,” Cooke explained. “We look forward to hearing how people use it and we plan to do more of these in the future.”
The five-person Chavruta committee for the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot resource includes people living in Israel, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The audience, too, is international, with over 80 Limmud communities affiliated with the global learning movement, which was founded in the UK in 1980. Recent additions to the Limmud family who have had an event or are working towards one include communities in Mumbai, China, Peru, Vancouver, Miami, Barcelona, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Italy, Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Positive responses to the resource began to roll in immediately. For example, Limmud Atlanta + Southeast is partnering with a local synagogue for its first-ever Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, where it will offer the resource as an option to the 100 expected participants.
A Limmud Mexico activist hopes to have it translated into Spanish for communities in Spain and Latin America.
But the target audience extends to everyone.
“The Tikkun Leyl learning sheet is outstanding,” wrote an educational emissary in Canada. “Really looking forward to using it with my chanichim [youth groups charges].”
An Israeli emissary in the UK emailed, “I’d like to use it to study with my friends.”
And from Los Angeles: “This is amazing. We are actually having our own mini learning session with our friends at dinner the first night of Shavuot before setting out into the community to learn for the rest of the evening. This material will be an invaluable resource.”
The Limmud Chavruta Project is an international collaboration of Limmud volunteers from a diverse range of Jewish, cultural and geographical backgrounds. Every year since 1996, the Project has produced a new source book of texts exploring some aspect of Jewish life, divided into four sections. The sources for each section are collected by a team of volunteers and then edited together by the project chair or co-chairs.
Since 2009, there have been contributing teams in Canada, Israel, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA. The books, originally introduced for Limmud Conference in the UK, are now used at Limmud events throughout the year and around the world.
“We are delighted that our Chavruta project has now expanded to provide not just our annual Chavruta books launched at each Limmud Conference, but also this seasonal project,” said Limmud International Chair David Hoffman. “It allows Limmud volunteers and participants around the world to study the same texts at the same time.
“It is another way in which Limmud hopes to draw our international Limmud communities into a larger Limmud community of learning.”