Shavout 5767, Jerusalem:
Receiving the Torah all over again for the first time, this time as a resident of Jerusalem and not a tourist on a short schedule. Erev Shavuot, Tuesday night began with services at Kol Rina, the Carlebach Shul that meets in a bomb shelter in Nachalot. Hundreds (if not thousands) of Shiurim on every conceivable variety of Torah topics were offered all over the City, beginning after dinner and going until dawn. On Shavuot the tradition is to stay up all night learning Torah, to prepare to receive the Torah anew from Sinai on Shavuot morning (Wednesday).
The best Shiur I heard was about the relationship Rav Kook, Israel's first Chief Rabbi and author of "Orot," had with writers and other creative individuals. Aside from being a genius and the spiritual father of the Religious Zionist movement, Rav Kook was a writer, a poet and kept private notebooks, of which he says (and I paraphrase): the act of keeping a journal or private notebook is like writing your own Torah, as journaling is a spiritual exercise between the writer, the Lord and his creative spirit.
Imagine the surprise of the Children of Israel upon receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai and finding within it themselves - the story of their lives. Rav Kook says the Torah is missing one piece - YOUR story, and writing as an art form is like inserting the story of YOUR life into the Torah itself.
Another Shavuot tradition is to eat dairy foods during the holiday. Ice cream, cheese cake, blintzes, all manner of cheeses - Israelis spent 35 million NIS on dairy foods this Shavuot, according to the Jerusalem Post. I know I did my part!
I heard the Book of Ruth read as well as the 10 Commandments in Shul. "We will do and we will hear," we said at Sinai as we accepted the Torah. May we indeed do, and may we truly hear, may we grow and may we give the best part of ourselves to each other and to the Lord.
This picture of me was taken by my son Cameron this Shavuot afternoon (Wednesday May 23rd, 2007 / 6 Sivan 5767) after pulling the all-nighter and then preparing a dairy lunch for everyone. I'm completely sleep deprived, deliriously happy to have received the Torah all over again and feeling like a really snuggly born-again baby, satisfied with being fed the pure "milk" of G_d's Word. Yum, yawn... yeah.