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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776

Emily Grotta

Holiday Presents Opportunity for Jewish Learning

For the fifth year, the Reform Movement is urging its membership to hold study sessions on the evening of Shavuot. The idea of holding a Tikkun Leil Shavuot was re-introduced by Rabbi Eric Yoffie shortly after he was elected president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

This year's study Tikkun Leil Shavuot study guide, Together at Sinai, offers a choice of eight different workshops, enabling each congregation to create a unique evening of study appropriate for its members. Each can be led by a rabbi, educator, or lay leader, and adapted to suit the needs of learning groups of all sizes.

The holiday of Shavuot is traditionally considered to be the anniversary of the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Tikkun Leil Shavuot, a concept originally developed by sixteenth-century kabbalists, is the custom of staying up the night of Shavuot and studying with one's community in order to re-experience what the Israelites went through as they stood at Sinai.

"With this guide, Reform Jews everywhere will be able to bring yet another sacred tradition within the walls of their synagogues," says Rabbi Lawrence Raphael, director of the UAHC's Department of Adult Jewish Growth. "Groups of learners will examine new and innovative ways to commemorate Shavuot, and also learn about the different methods through which the holiday has been celebrated through the ages."

The workshops and study sessions contained within this year's guide explore the meaning of Shavuot from a variety of perspectives. "Telling the Story: A Haggadah for Shavuot " is a full-evening program that recounts the events at Sinai with a special holiday seder. Participants blow a shofar, light candles to symbolize divine fire, eat challah and honey to demonstrate how sweet the words of the Torah can be, and stage a dramatic reading of the Shavuot story. In "Finding Your Personal Torah," each participant is asked to research the Torah portions from the day he or she was born and share the findings with the group.

"Remembering Sinai: A Text Study," another workshop, takes participants through a guided meditation about Sinai, as they imagine themselves journeying through the desert wilderness, overjoyed at their freedom from slavery, and later trembling in awe as they first hear the word of God.

Other workshops focus on text study. "Gleanings from Ruth: Through a Tikkun Olam Lens" addresses the concept of tzedakah (charity) as presented in the Book of Ruth; and another asks participants to examine Duties of the Soul, a book published by the UAHC Press that examines the role of mitzvot in Reform Judaism. "Feminist Perspectives on Revelation" helps learners come to terms with a troublesome passage from Exodus that commands Israelite men to "not go near a woman."

The guide also includes a workshop on Ketubot L'Shavuot, traditional Shavuot wedding contracts that signify the "marriage" of God and the Jews at Sinai, and a guide for temple musicians and vocalists for cantillation of the Book of Ruth.

Together at Sinai is available free of charge to all UAHC synagogues. It can also be downloaded in its entirety from the UAHC Holidays Web site.


The Union of American Hebrew Congregations is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues across the United States and Canada. UAHC services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC.


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