Last month I wrote about some Jewish holidays on the calendar in May, and this month I will continue the theme for June. Once again, we have old and new observances, specifically the festival of Shavuot and Yom Yerushalayim. Jerusalem Day.
Jerusalem Day, observed this year on Sunday, June 2, is the day that commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in 1967. It is one of four holidays that were added to the Jewish calendar in the middle to latter part of the 20th century, the other three of which I described last month. On June 2nd there will be celebrations and festivities in Israel, as well as offerings of prayers for peace. As Psalm 122 says, “sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim... Pray for the peace of Jerusalem...may there be peace within your walls, serenity within your homes.”
Shavuot, one of the three pilgrimage festivals, comes this year about a week later, and commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. This agricultural celebration is called the Feast of Weeks, coming at the culmination of the counting of the Omer, 49 days from Passover to this holiday. We eat dairy foods for several reasons, including the fact that the holiday occurs during milking season, when dairy is plentiful, and because before receiving the Torah the Israelites did not follow ritual animal slaughter, so they ate dairy foods instead of meat. In the Song of Songs (4:11), the Torah is compared to milk: “Like honey and milk, it (Torah) lies under your tongue.”
We renew our commitment and dedication to God on Shavuot, and the perfect story to illustrate this is the Book of Ruth, which we read on Shavuot. This book describes Ruth’s embracing Judaism, becoming Naomi’s daughter-in-law, and ultimately creating a family tree for King David.
L’hitra’ot, until next time!