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Celebrating the Gift of Biblical Rules

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Starting May 14th, Jewish people around the world celebrate one of the most significant holidays in the Biblical calendar: Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, known to some Christians as “Pentecost.”  This Festival ranks alongside Passover, and far above Hanukah, in importance, but it’s widely ignored, even by most Jews.

The reasons? Unlike Hanukah and Passover, there’s no corresponding Christian celebration. Also, Shavuot commemorates revelation of the Torah and its commandments on Mount Sinai, and contemporary society doesn’t see rules and obligations as cause for rejoicing. But liturgy refers to the holiday as the “Season of Giving our Torah” – using the Hebrew word for gift, mattanah, that denotes presents as indications of affection.

It may be unfashionable to see divine laws as generous gifts, but that’s the crucial message of the Shavuot festival.

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