A SHAVUOT SEDER
Shavuot (Pronounced Sh-vu-oat) is the Festival of Weeks, seven weeks of seven days after Passover, and links the liberation of our people to the receiving of the teachings of God at and on Mt. Sinai.
The countdown from Passover to Shavuot is a forty-nine day ascent, (Aliyah), to the Revelation on Mt Sinai (Pronounced See-nigh in Hebrew.) The first revelation in this linking is that freedom requires responsibility. Our response to The Giving of the Torah at Sinai is described in The Book of Exodus right after the revelation of the Ten Principle Teachings. What did we see nigh? (Word play is part of our tradition and truly awesome when it works in Hebrew and English.)
“And the entire nation saw the voices and the thunder, and the sound of the Shofar and the mountain was consumed with smoke. The people saw and were frightened: therefore they stood at a distance. They said to Moses “You speak to us and we will here, but God shall not speak to us lest we die.” (20:15-16).
Open the text to see Moses response. Rashi explains how the people could see the thunder:
“They saw the sounds; that which is usually heard and impossible to see under different circumstances.” (20:15). Is this what frightened the children of Israel?
Why? Is Revelation not an experience of all the senses?
Science calls this experience of seeing sounds synesthesia. This was the experience at the base of the mountain. Imagine what Moses saw and heard on the Arête, the top of the mountain. Aliyah, ascending, you may experience what Moses saw and heard. Not everyone is ready for this peak experience. The world, according to Abraham Maslow, one of our greatest psychologists of all time, is divided into peakers and non- peakers. Of course those who refuse Aliyah quote scripture to justify their position so they do not see the thunder. Only those with courage experience revelation face to face.
Sinai was truly see-nigh a great revelation near and at hand. Why did the children of Israel fear direct contact with Gods words? Mt. Sinai is referred to in Hebrew as har gavnunim, a ragged and rugged mountain with many peaks. The English equivalent (from the Greek) is Arête, which also means, in the thought of the Greeks, the sum of all good qualities. For our people Shavuot is the greatest moment in history, the Arête of the Jewish experience. Our ascent or Aliyah leads to a peak, a sharp crested ridge that is a potentially dangerous place. The arête is where we experience personal revelation, as did Moses.
We are taught (Exodus 24:12) that Moses received The Stone Tablets, the Torah, and the Commandments, written for instruction. Moses did not receive Ten
Commandments. Limiting the commandments to ten, according to our Rabbis is a dangerous teaching. Written on the Tablets are The Ten Principle Teachings.
What Torah and other commands did Moses receive? Our Rabbis teach that the Ten Teachings on the tablets were principles that defined 613 commandments in the Five Books Of Moses that are the basis of The Oral Law that defines Rabbinic Judaism. This Second Torah is also given to Moses on Sinai. Moreover the Revelation on Sinai is perceived as an event that continues to this day, when any precocious student may discover a new insight into the Torah. This means the Torah is an ideal constitution open to ever new revelation.
AN ALIYAH TO THE ARÊTE
One who receives an Aliyah alights to the level of Moses, and sees from the Arête Torat Emet, the deep truths of Torah. The Aliyah that leads to the Arête teaches character excellence and true virtue. On the Arête we also learn the meaning of courage and the sum of all good qualities that open our hearts and minds to be receptive to Revelation. My Rabbi and mentor wondered why the children of Israel were more intent on learning the teachings at the base of the Mountain rather than the Arête. The decisive things and deep truths are best viewed from the peaks. The only danger in our generation is in not lacing your hiking boots for the ascent.
How is The Seder of the Evening of Shavuot different from all other Seders? All other Seders have a beginning and end, but this Seder continues every day of the year.
At all other Seders we are what we eat. On this night we are what we read.
On all other holiday prayer services we receive an Aliyah only as part of a minyan of Ten, This night we will learn how to ascend as Moses ascended.
After we eat we will study Torah from a Tikkun. We will also do a Tikkun ha hanefesh and Tikkun ha guf (soul, heart, and body repair) based on the revelations of Torah this Shavuot.
We invite You, O lord our God, to dwell with us this holyday of Shavuot, the season of The Giving of the Torah.
Baruch ata adon nigh alohaynu melech ha olam bo ray pri ha gafen.
We praise your name adon nigh ,Lord who is near ,by the sanctification of this fruit of the vine.
We end our observance of Passover and Counting of The Omer by humbly offering these two loaves as the symbol of your Presence at this table.
Wash your hands and say: All praise is due to our creator for commanding the washing and uplifting of hands.
Lift the bread with both hands and recite the ten words:
Baruch ata adonigh alohaynew melech haolam homotzi lechem min haaretz.
Before Grace after meals we will experience Tikkun leil Shavuot
(Reconstructing Perfection on the night of Shavuot.) The myth and metaphors of this evening of Pentecost focus on the shattered set of Tablets. Moses breaks the first set of tablets upon seeing the worship of the golden calf. The children of Israel are given a second chance by a God who is compassionate and forgiving. The reconstructed set of Tablets allows us to move from the golden calf to the golden path. This is Tikkun.
This process actually begins in Genesis. In the beginning is our ending. Creation is the ordering of chaos which is why we have a Seder this evening.
Our fictional ancestors Adam and Eve are told they will die if they eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They did not die but were exiled from Eden. God is benevolent from the very beginning.
The Book of Genesis is our starting point to reconstruct our sacred library. This evening we reread the story of Cain and Abel and experience a myth history has lived by. Civilization wears the mark of Cain, as murder and violence are the supreme themes of our story. We speak of Gods hidden face, blaming God for the Holocaust. This night we discuss how we hide from God.
The end of Genesis is a story about the end of days, in the messianic age. Jacob who is Israel has a prophetic vision of his children that illuminates the end of
their story. Jacob/ Israel’s’ poetic charge to his children is brutal in its criticism and praise of his sons. We the children of the children of Israel have been as unstable as water and the first born have not merited the staff of leadership. Our pruning hooks we have turned into swords used in uncivil war. Our redeemer will come from Judah for he is a son of peace. When the nation is tribally divided, Israel prays we reunite, so the blessings do not become a curse. All of this we review this night of Tikkun before we enter the Book of Exodus.
Moses lives to lead the people out of Egypt because of an act of civil disobedience. Retell the story of the midwifes (Shifra and Puah) ,and how they inspired Yocheved to save her son Moses. Reread the story of the Exodus and discuss the Exodus of the Passover of the Future.
Rabbinic narrative teaches that just as Creation continues so does Revelation.
God in her infinite goodness renews at every moment the workings and story of creation. The Torah is given every day to those who will Kabballah, who will receive. Redemption is also happening, one person at a time. Once we stop dancing around the golden calf and ascend to the peak of the mountain we see nigh the way of sanctification. The Path is sometimes straight and sometimes narrow but always leads to the Second Set of Tablets. The God of the second chance is by definition a forgiving God who dwells in realms of mercy.
Heaven and Earth meet on The Arête where we accept the gift of The Two Tablets of Testimony. This is also the Tikkun of the evening of Shavuot; The Day of At One Ment.The first set of Tablets was broken by Moses to represent the broken worlds of the broken Covenant. The Second Set represents the World of Tikkun.
A Tikkun Different From All Other Tikkun
On this night we discuss the books we chose to study and create a canon.
For Jews the canon includes The Torah, The Prophets and The Writings. Our tradition is to read the Book of Ruth publicly in the synagogue. The Book of Ruth will be our focus this evening of personal and family practice. Your Tikkun will include selections from Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy etc. and takes most a year to review so do selections. Use a traditional Tikkun for the Evening of Shavuot as a guide. We also have to answer the question of what God has been up to for the past two thousand years.
In the Christian Bible Ruth follows Judges. Note also that the Christian Bible ends with Malachi to connect Elijah and The Book of Matthew. Check to see now which version you are using. The Hebrew Bible ends with Chronicles and the dream of Aliyah and a reconstructed Temple.
For Christians the canon continues with four Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation. The Temple of the future in Revelation is a repeat of the vision of Isaiah of a new heaven and earth. Isaiah also asks the question of the meaning of the Temple in
Jerusalem. Reread Chapter 66. God is drawn to the humble and penitent and cannot be contained by any Temple. or church.
What are we to make of a New Testament? Is this a New Covenant which triumphs over and supercedes the old? What then of Islam that teaches the newer testament, the Holy Quran? Does The Quran trump the Christian Bible?
Bahai offers the newest testament. Should we all become Bahai? In my opinion these questions are answered by Dr. Franklin Littel in his study on the Crucifixion of the Jews.
The Quran is not the Final Testament.
Israel is the Suffering Servant.
The Messiah is open to discussion.
The covenant is ever in need of renewal, never in need of triumphilism.
We do better with Ruth and Naomi then with the theologians on these issues.
The Book of (T)Ruth: A reading around the Table
We open the book of Ruth to discover Torat Emet, a Torah of Truth.
Baruch ata adonigh elohanu melech halom asher kidshanu b mitzvotav vitzevane lokroat hamegillah shel Root v Naomi.
We acknowledge now that YHVH is our God ruler of every nation who speaks to us of unity and redemption in the story that teaches truth through Ruth and Naomi.
Read the Four Chapters around the table or out loud to yourself.
Questions for discussion:
1.) Why the Book of Ruth and not The Book of Naomi?
2.) What other book is named for a woman?
3.) How do they compare.
4.) How did Ruth convert?
5.) Two thirds of The Book of (T)Ruth are in dialogue. What do we learn from this fact?
6.) Naomi means pleasant, Ruth friend, Orpah turning away, and Mahlon and Chilion sickly and fading away. Does this mean thay are fictional characters?
7.) This evening of Shavuot, according to our torahs truth represents the marriage of The Oral Law (Malchute) and The Written Law (Tifferet). What does this marriage give birth to?
8.) What does The Book of Ruth teach about intermarriage?
9.) Are The Teachings on The Two Tablets of Testimony for everyone or for the Jews alone?
10.) What does Kabballah teach about all these truths?
Grace after meals: Recite a full grace or
We acknowledge your grace in feeding us this bread and the wisdom of the words we learned at this table. We have eaten and we are satisfied.
We pray for the day when your vision is real, a world at peace, all land holy.
The Seder continues
O Lord we hear your commandment to learn love and live love in every domain of our lives and to teach this to our children and disciples. Our homes and hearts and minds we dedicate to You, each and every day a revelation.
We order our lives by the words of your Torah to attain truth.
We end by beginning again.
ASCENDING TO THE ARÊTE UPON RECEIVING AN ALIYAH
(For evening or morning services, and may be done with a minyan of one.)
The blessing upon being called for an Aliyah begins the same as the call to prayer. Prayer is devotion of the heart. An Aliyah is also a call to engage the intellect and more. If you know the traditional melodies recite in Hebrew and then the following updated interpretive translation:
Barchu et adonigh hamvorach
Lord accept this study as a prayer
This study is praise to the eternal One
Baruch adoneigh hamvorach l olam va ed.
We acknowledge your Name is One
And that we are chosen to teach every nation
Of The Gift of The Giving of The Torah
And to proclaim our portion of God
In the Ascent of this Aliyah.
Torah reading: The Ten Utterances: Ten Wor(l)ds
Chant with traditional trope. Translate. Follow with these Ten Words for Our Time:
1.)Trust in God. We will be lead out our bondage to ignorance and embrace truth.
2.) Remove the idols of false ideals. Religions, like people, get lost.
3.) Do not profane Shalom, which is Gods sublime Name.
4.) Remember to observe The Sabbath, paradigm of inner and world Peace.
5.) Honor and love your mother and father, together the image of God.
6.) To life
7.) To love
8.) To give
9.) To witness
10 The Ten are basics. Do not Covet them as secrets, teach fundamentals, not ism.
Blessing after The Revelation
(First with Hebrew and traditional melody if you know it, then)
We now proclaim your Crown on Creation
For these teachings lead to Redemption
By living the Truths of Torah
Seeds of eternity planted in our gardens
The Tree of Life now within our grasp
Ever expanding the boundaries of our worlds
as we Kabballah you’re Torah.