Blowing in the Wind: Barley is harvested in the spring, long before the eight days of Sukkot.

Jewish Thinkers Debate Shavuot In The Modern Age

Shavuot is taking place this week. Marking the spring harvest and commemorating the day God gave the Torah to Moses, Shavuot is a holiday sometimes forgotten or diminished by secular Jews. Today, Jewish writers and thinkers are discussing the holiday with one question in mind: how should we apply this holiday based on ancient practices to society of today?

Here are some contrasting takes on the Feast of Weeks.

Rabbi Adina Lewittes, Jewish Telegraphic Agency:Shavuot Is About Breaking The Tablets, And Putting Them Back Together



Rabbi Adina Lewittes offers a progressive interpretation of the Shavuot story, viewing Moses’ act of destroying the tablets as “the epitome of loyalty to the people, but also teaches God about community and continuity.” Lewittes portrays the breaking of the tablets as a metaphor for what changes need to be made in the present day to keep Judaism open and dynamic to the changing world all around. This “disassembling and reassembling” of the Torah and our traditions is the “source of our continuity, not our dissolution,” says Lewittes.

Jeremy Rosen, The Algemeiner:The Meaning Of Shavuot In Modern Times

Jeremy Rosen contemplates the role Shavuot can play in a modern society that has advanced far beyond ancient harvests and supplemented the Torah with innumerable interpretations and rules of law. Rosen views Shavuot as simply offering the template for that which we should rule our lives; the Torah is a living, breathing document as much as the harvest retains its dynamic nature. So must we adapt our ethics inspired by scripture to modern practices and behavior.

Rabbi Eli Kavon, Jerusalem Post:Lessons From Shavuot: Sinai As A Living Reality

Like Rosen, Rabbi Kavon advocates for the Torah as a living document necessary for the modern age. But there’s one critical difference. Rather than applying modern-day beliefs upon the teachings of the Torah, “Halachah must be a living entity that confronts the issues of the day,” says Kavon. The vivacity of the Torah stems from its timeless lessons, not by modern-day interpretations.

Jeremy Benstein, The Times of Israel:Shavuot: A Holiday For The Haves And The Have-Nots

Benstein examines the multiple aspects of Shavuot that distinguish it from most Jewish holidays. Shavuot is a holiday later adapted to the conditions of the Diaspora, explains Benstein. Its ancient origins begat the holiday’s original meaning, a purpose that became in certain ways obsolete following Jewish migration. But as Shavuot is celebrated in these modern times of gross inequality, says Benstein, it is critical to recall Shavuot’s rarely mentioned emphasis on justice in the face of social division.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.
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Jewish Thinkers Debate Shavuot In The Modern Age

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