In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, Shavuot, “Can’t get no respect.” Even Rodney likely knew little about the holiday. How can Shavuot compete with hamantaschen on Purim, gelt and jelly doughnuts on Chanukah, matzah on Passover or the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah? Shavuot has no dire consequences like Yom Kippur. And yet, poor old Shavuot is possibly considered the holiest of our holidays. Why? Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.
It is the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah that sealed our covenant with G-d as His chosen people. It was the Torah that caused other nations to refer to us as “the children of the book” and the “light unto nations.” Many observant Jews stay awake all night the evening of Shavuot and study Torah. I even did so as a Yeshiva High School student, and it was a very memorable experience for me.
Even in our promised land of Israel, which just celebrated its 70th anniversary as a modern state, Shavuot has seen a renaissance. It has become a day rich in Jewish cultural and arts activities throughout the country.
Like so many things in Judaism, Shavuot continues to evolve and continues to be a vital holy day that defines who we are as the Jewish people.
Marty Haberer is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix.