This year, Shavuot begins on Saturday evening, 8th June. After the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE and the festival ceased to be Yom Ha-Bikkurim, ‘The Day of First-Fruits’ when our ancestors went on pilgrimage with their offerings to Jerusalem, the Rabbinic Sages reconstructed the ‘Feast of Weeks’ into Z’man Matan Torateinu, ‘the Season of the Giving of our Torah’.
Traditionally, Divine Revelation is regarded as a one-off event. And so, the Eternal spoke at Mount Sinai not only through the Torah, but through the ‘oral law’, the subsequent rabbinic codes: the Mishnah, edited c. 200 CE, and the two versions of the Talmud: the Palestinian, c. 400 CE, and the much more expansive, Babylonian, a century later.
From a Progressive perspective by contrast, Revelation is understood to be continuous: The Eternal spoke to the generation in the wilderness and to the prophets, and to the rabbis. Indeed, the Eternal continues to speak throughout the generations, if only we would listen…
For two weeks in April, the streets of cities all over Britain were taken over by crowds of peaceful protesters galvanised by the most urgent issue of our age today: Climate Change. This ‘Extinction Rebellion’ which had been launched a few weeks earlier with school children abandoning their classrooms for the streets, found its most striking articulation in a young prophet from Sweden, called Greta Thunberg; a 16-year-old school student determined to confront the world with the bold facts of impending environmental disaster if the governments of the world fail to take action.
Just before Pesach, a young Jewish contingent emerged: ‘Extinction Rebellion Jews’ – @XRJews – urging us to take inspiration from the Exodus story: “At your Seder place a red chilli pepper on the plate to remind us of the burning earth. As we tell the Pesach story and consider our current liberation struggles, let us open ourselves to the signs of the climate catastrophe, and find inspiration to take action.”
Pesach is a time to be inspired to take action – and so, too, Shavuot. At BHPS, we shall be holding a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an all-night study marathon on the theme of Climate Change and committing ourselves to transforming the shul into an ‘Eco-Synagogue’ – https://ecosynagogue.org/
All are Welcome.