9 Mind-Expanding Themes to Keep You Up All Night This Shavuot
Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis are putting the finishing touches on their programs for the first night of Shavuot, when it is customary to burn the midnight oil, studying Torah all night until daybreak.
Nine different Chabad rabbis around the world were asked what they plan to study during the holiday with their communities.
These were their responses:
1. Start at the Beginning . . .
The Torah begins with one word, Bereishit. Often translated as “in the beginning,” this one word is said to hold the keys to creation itself. Over the years, Kabbalists, homilists, chassidic masters and scholars of all stripes have peeled back layer upon layer of insight packed into those six letters. Shavuot night is a perfect time to explore the tip of the iceberg of Torah.
2. The Story of Ruth
Shavuot celebrates the day when our ancestors stood at Mount Sinai becoming G‑d’s chosen nation. The book of Ruth tells a story of loyalty and generosity, as the Moabite princess Ruth follows her Hebrew mother-in-law to the Land of Israel. There she joins the Jewish nation, becoming the archetype for thousands of righteous converts who followed her path.
Deep in meaning, the four chapters of this book are the perfect narrative to explore the evening of Shavuot.
3. A Little Bit of Everything
The traditional syllabus for Shavuot night, known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot, is a summarized version of the entire Torah. It boasts selections from every Parshah of the Torah, as well as from the Tanach, the tractates of the Mishnah, and even major Kabbalistic works. It’s an impressive run-through of our entire tradition. The last section is Maimonides’ list of the 613 mitzvahs.
4. Stump the Rabbi!
Why limit Torah study? We’ve only recently celebrated Passover, where the Seder centers around the Four Questions. But Jewish people have far more than just four questions, so we invite people to submit their questions in advance of Shavuot. After answering them, we open the floor for group discussion. People love it, and they manage to stay awake all night, peppering others with their insights.
5. Feel the Depth
King David was a mighty warrior and a powerful leader. He was also a prophet, who wrote some of the most enduring words in our tradition, the book of Psalms. Psalms are part of daily Jewish prayers and are very commonly recited. But how often do we have a chance to study them in depth? Shavuot, King David’s yahrtzeit, is a profound and relevant time to study them with some classic commentaries.
6. That’s ‘Rabbi Doctor’ to You!
Maimonides was one of the most influential teachers of Torah in the past millennium. Private physician to Saladin and a brilliant writer on a plethora of subjects, he will be long remembered as a philosopher and codifier of Jewish law. It is safe to assume that if not for his leadership, Torah would have been lost from some Jewish communities.
What better time is there to study the life and times of this great man—the Moses of his generation?
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