I’m in Southern California visiting with family and noted something fascinating in the current yearly calendar published by the Reform Jewish temple where I grew up and had my bar mitzvah. The Jewish festival of Shavuot is this coming Friday and Saturday. Glancing through the calendar, I found that every Jewish and non-Jewish holiday was there: the high holy days (Rosh Ha’shanah, Yom Kippur), Passover, also Sukkot, along with Christmas, New Year’s, Election Day, and so on. But no Shavuot! It was simply not there.
To understand the significance of this, you need to know that there are three great pilgrim festival in Judaism, each recalling a stage in the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. They are Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Passover recalls the exodus itself. Shavuot recalls the giving of the 10 Commandments at Mt. Sinai. Sukkot recalls the miraculous life and existence of the Jews in the desert for 40 years thereafter.
Arguably, Shavuot is the most important of the three. Without the giving of the Torah, crystallized in the 10 Commandments, the Egyptian exodus would have been of little importance. It’s only the gift of revelation, the Jews’ receiving of our eternal mission, that made the rest of the experience meaningful for later generations like our own.
The liberal Jewish denominations, Reform and Conservative, have jettisoned those parts of the Torah they find undigestible, incompatible with secular and general culture. It’s not a question of individual Jews personally failing here or there as we all do, but rather of an ideological stance rejecting Torah’s authority.
So here is one Reform temple that has seemingly just erased Shavuot from its calendar, as if it never existed — much as the faces of unpopular bureaucrats were once erased from official photos in Soviet Russia. I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it. Maybe it’s just a typo. Probably it’s just that. But what a chillingly appropriate typo, if such is the case.
P.S., If you demand it loud enough, I will scan and publish the photo from my (very) Reform bar mitzvah of me with the 2 intriguingly attired lady disco dancer who instructed us all in the Hustle. Long Beach, California, 1977.