Shavuot: Coming Together Across the Globe to Learn Through the Night, In Our Homes

The Reconstructionist movement’s Shavuot All Night Learning is a Tikkun Leyl Shavuot (an all-night study of Torah in its broadest sense.) It will bring together teachers, performers, learners, students, creatives and seekers across the globe into each other’s homes to celebrate the holiday.

Starting with a Kabbalat Hag/Song Fest on Thursday, May 28 at 7:30 p.m. EDT, musical leaders will welcome the holiday with original songs and traditional compilations, and will light both a memorial candle and holiday candles to welcome in the festival. Shortly after, we will present a series of live teachings through 7:30 a.m. PDT on Friday, May 29. Presenters include such teachers as Rabbi Sandy Sasso, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld and poet Marcia Falk. Offerings include text study, storytelling, meditations and artistic expressions. Dawn will be welcomed through movement and a puppet show. Teachers will be joining from Israel and across North America, making this a truly global celebration.

The festival of Shavuot (“Weeks” or “Pentecost”) is also known in our tradition as z’man matan Toratenu – “The Time of the Giving of Our Torah,” and has its origins in agricultural celebration. The holiday commemorates the Israelites’ receiving of Torah on Mt. Sinai. That experience of revelation – the giving of the gift of insight, learning and knowledge of our journey in this world – is a critical mythic moment in the formation of Jews as a people.

But instead of being one of our highest of holy days, it is often given short shrift in many non-Orthodox Jewish communities, due both to its timing (after the end of many religious schools’ academic years) and to the lack of home-based rituals surrounding the holiday.

Each year, Shavuot presents an opportunity to delve into some of the text stories and ideas that have shaped the Jewish tradition. It’s a chance to, metaphorically, greet the Torah anew. This year, the coronavirus pandemic has rendered normal communal gatherings impossible. Yet this most of unfortunate of situations has presented an opportunity to bring Shavuot home in a new way.

The program is a joint project of Reconstructing Judaism, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the movement’s rabbis and communities. We welcome all comers to join for as much or as little of the program as they are able, either by registering for the Zoom webinar  or by viewing through Reconstructing Judaism’s Facebook page.