In the middle of this month we will celebrate Shavuot שבועות , which means" weeks ." Last month we spoke about the 50 days between Pesach and Shavuot—called counting the Omer. This sometimes causes confusion and an error where Shavuot is translated as "Pentecost ,"which is the Christain holiday falling 50 days after Easter. The only similarity the two share is the time (50 days) between the previous respective holiday.
An alternative name for Shavuot is Hag Matan Torateinu, or “The Festival of the Giving of Our To-rah”. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given at this time. Thus it is the giving, not the receiving, that makes this holiday significant.
Shavuot is marked by the cus-tom of staying up all night and studying Torah. We will do our own short version of this minhag (see other box in ChaiLites for more information).
Another tradition is to eat dairy foods during the holiday. This too begs the question, why? As one might anticipate, there are a multitude of answers and little agreement therein.
If gematria (Hebrew numerology) is your speed, then one explanation is that the word חלב chalav (milk) is numerically equivalent to 40 [8+30+2]—which is the number of days that Moses spent on Mt. Sinai when receiving the Torah.
Or perhaps lack of coincidence is more your speed, you might notice that the initials of the four Hebrew words in Numbers 28:26 ( מִנְ חָ֤ה חִ ד ש ה֙ לִ יה וה
בִ שבֻעֹ֖ תֵי כֶ֑ם,) which describe the sacrificial meal offering on Shavuot, spell mei halav (from milk), suggesting that dairy food is the acceptable dinner for the festival.
Maybe kashrut understanding is your leaning and so the idea that when the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, included was special instructions for how to slaughter and prepare meat for eating; and therefore all their current meat was not kosher. So the only alternative was to eat dairy, which requires no advance preparation.
Interpretation a little more your speed? Then Torah is likened to milk, as the verse says, "Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue" (Song of Songs 4:11). Just as milk has the ability to fully sustain the body of a human being (i.e. a nursing baby), so too the Torah provides all the “spiritual nourishment” necessary for the human soul.
However you understand the eating of dairy on Shavuot, I hope you will do it with us on June 11. May you continue to feel nourished by Torah and by community.
Warmly and with blessings,
Rabbi Rachael Jackson
It is astonishing to me that just about 2 years have gone by since I was elected President of Agudas Israel Congregation. As I look back and reflect on these years, I am somewhat awed by all that has occurred.
Probably, we would point out the arrival of Rabbi Jackson as the most significant event that hap-pened within the last year. Rabbi Jackson’s presence has been a joy and a source of renewed energy for the congregation. But her coming is the visible reflection of so much work on the part of others work-ing behind the scenes to maintain the viability of our synagogue culminating with the selection of a new Rabbi.
I know I cannot identify all, but I must take the time to thank those who have made these past two years a success. My board has done an excellent job of stewardship for Agudas Israel. Our Vice President, Allen Rosen, has meticulously taken care of our building and cemetery while at the same time looking for ways to contain costs. Our Treasurer, Steven Bookspan, has worked diligently to manage our finances. Steve watches over our accounts, making sure that our money is working to our best advantage. Our board is kept up to date and informed on all financial issues within the congregation. Bonnie Cooper, our secretary, is the keeper of the minutes but so much more. Bonnie’s expertise in synagogue life contributed to so many ways to improving our communication and marketing strategies. Our immediate Past President, Paul Vanek took responsibility for ByLaws and Nominating Committee this year. We have six elected trustees, Barbara Gittleman, Peter Perkel, Sam Gess, Larry Kosowsky, David Monoson, and our newest addition, Debbie Lavine. Each of our trustees has an area of responsibility that helps to contribute to our overall operation, membership, fundraising, security, publicity, and calendar management. Also sitting on our board are the Presidents of the wonderful Sisterhood and Brotherhood, Natalie Zitnick and Michael Thorz. Together, we work as one to make decisions we hope will positively influence the growth and sus-tainability of Agudas Israel.
Our board is only a small piece of those who work towards our success. Some are visible such as Salem Leaman, Chair of the Ritual Committee and Marilyn Rosen, Chair of the Caring Committee, Vicky Lieber, Chair of Correspondence, who have taken on long term responsibilities. Others have assumed responsibility for special projects, Carol Leaman, Chair of the Mountain Jewish Festival, Judy Levinson and Linda Reihs, Chairs of Mitzvah Day, Teddi Segal, Chair of Passover Seder, Sid Williams who has generously made us a first class sound system, Michael Beckerman who produced the Jewish history of Hendersonville. But there are so many others whose contributions may be big or small that don’t have titles. Those that pick up food for an oneg, those that work in the office, those that come in and collate the Chai Lites, who keep the pantry stocked, come in and cook and bake, those who see that the sanctuary is set up for Shabbat every Friday night. There are a multitude of tasks that need to get done and do get done as a result of the contributions of so many of you. If I was able to, I could probably name every member of the congregation and identify your unique gifts.
All this is my way of saying, Thank You. It is said “It takes a village” but I say “it takes a community”. We at Agudas Israel are a community and the accom-plishments of this congregation over the last two, challenging years, are remarkable. For those of you who have told me I am doing a good job, I say, it is all of us who are doing a good job. I feel so confident and secure that Agudas Israel is in the hands of those who are guaranteeing that Agudas Israel will be here for the generations that follow us.
Dr. Linda Perkel, President
Read the our Newsletter "Chai Lites" for June by clicking Chai Lites June 2016