Shavuot June 2016 / 5776
Shavuot is probably the most important of all the Festivals in Jewish calendar. Why? Because all the other Festivals owe their very existence to a singular event that happened on Shavuot! This event was the Sinai Revelation when G-d gave us His Torah where, among other things, we learn about the Festivals.
If not for G-d’s Torah we wouldn’t even know about the Festivals, and since it was on Shavuot that the Torah was given to us therefore it is fair to say that Shavuot is the “Festival of all Festivals”. If someone does not feel that Shavuot - the day when the Torah was given to us is worthy of a celebration, then why should they celebrate Pesach? We know about Pesach only from the Torah and if the Torah is not a cause for celebration then why Pesach is a cause for celebration? Just in order to have an excuse to eat some chremslach?
Talking about chremslach and such; even the traditional Shavuot Cheesecake has been introduced because of the Torah. When our ancestors received the Torah at Mount Sinai, they found that all their meat plus the cooking pots were now considered not kosher as it wasn’t slaughtered and prepared according to Torah instructions. The only alternative was to eat dairy, which doesn’t require specific preparation in order to be kosher. So, when you eat the cheesecake remember that it is not just a cheesecake - it is a reminder of the laws of kashrus. Be careful not to eat it with meat or soon after eating meat, and also don’t eat it from a ‘meaty’ plate.
As this year the Festival of Shavuot is preceded by Shabbat we are going to have a continuous three-day celebration; Shabbat – Shavuot 1st day - Shavuot 2nd day. It is a fabulous celebration surely, but it also presents certain challenges; however nothing is too difficult as long as we are prepared well in advance:
Friday 10th of June
Make sure before Shabbat that you lit a few extra long (72 hours) yahrzeitcandles. You will need them later on Yom Tov!
Shabbat 11th of June
Try to get this Shabbat afternoon a good, long sleep - you are going to be awake very late at night!
As this is the eve of Shavuot we don’t have Seuda Shelishit in Shul (you should try to have something small at home for a nominal Seuda Shelishit); we come to shul for Mincha only at 6.00 pm and go back home (another opportunity to catch some sleep).
No preparations should be made for the Festival of Shavuot until Shabbat has terminated at 10.48pm! Food may be cooked or heated only after this time. The Yom Tov candles should be lit no earlier than 10.48 pm! (Leeds).
First Night and Day of Shavuot, June 11-12
There are many activities which are forbidden on Shabbat but permissible on Shavuot, such as igniting fire (only from another existing fire!), cooking and carrying objects on the street. Even after 10.48pm all such activities must wait until one verbally "separates" between Shabbat and the Festival. This is called Havdalah – Separation. When we recite the festive Evening Service – Ma’ariv (we start in shul at 10.48pm) the prayer includes a special havdalah themed insert, the Va'to-de'aynu paragraph in the Amidah- Standing Prayer section of the night's prayers (easy to find in your Machzor or Siddur).
If someone stays at home and after 10.48pm wants to light the candles for Yom Tov, or to start any preparations for Yom Tov, prior to doing it, they should say; "Baruch hamavdil bayn kodesh likodesh" -- "Blessed is the One who separates between (the) holiness (of Shabbat) and (the) holiness (of the holiday)".
The formula for the B’rachah for Yom Tov candles is … Lehadlik ner shel Yom Tov.
Some people make the B’rachah Shehechiyanu when they light the candles and some wait with it till Kiddush.
Having in mind the laws of Yom Tov, one should remember that even after Shabbat has terminated the candles may not be kindled from a match, but only from a pre-existing flame from before Shabbat (you can light a match from a yahrzeit candle lit before Shabbat). After lighting the candles place the match you used to light the candles in an ashtray without putting it off. If you don’t have existing fire at home don’t light the Yom Tov candles!
The Kiddush for this evening incorporates Havdalah, as it is the time of departure of Shabbat; the whole text of the kiddush/havdalah can be found in your standard or holiday prayer book. For this Havdalah we don’t use the besamim-aromatic spices. Direct your fingertips towards the Yom Tov candles and recite the B’rachah “Baruch atah … Melech haolam, borei m'orei ha-eish”. Finish the Havdalah, as stated in your Machzor/Sidur, Hamavdil ben Kodesh L’kodesh. Conclude the Kiddush/Havdalah with the B’rachah Shehechiyanu.
By now it is probably around 11.30pm; don’t try to have a typical Festive meal but rather have something light. Some people have a custom to have this meal made of dairy products.
After the meal you have two fabulous options how to celebrate Shavuot:
If you fancy some all-night learning, then please come along at 12.45am to Etz Chaim for the Tikkun Leil Shavuot; the engaging and informative programme, as well as the yummy cheesecake and refreshments will keep you wide awake till 4.00am. At 4.00am we have quick morning service, finishing about 6.00am – the rest of the day is free to recuperate after sleepless night!
At the regular Minyan at 9.15there will be; Reading of the Ten Commandments, a Baby Naming Ceremony, Children's Story time and blessing, followed by Ice Cream Sundae on Sunday Kiddush!
Second Night and Day of Shavuot, June 12-13
It is preferable neither making any preparations for the second night of Shavuot, nor lighting the candles, making Kiddush and having the second night Festive meal till after 10.36pm.
If you are frail, very tired, have children or guests you can light the candles (in the same manner as on the first day of Shavuot) after 7.52 pm and having the Kiddush and Festive meal straight after. In this case you can prepare the festive evening meal on the day of Shavuot itself. The meal should be terminated before 9.37pm.
Whichever way you go about it please bear in mind that while lighting the Yom Tov candles or preparing food on Yom Tov one should be extra careful not to do anything that is forbidden on Yom Tov such as lighting matches (as opposed to using existing fire), turning on electrical appliances, using hob lighter, putting the fire off after using it etc!
The Kiddush for the second night is the regular Kiddush of Yom Tov; as on the first night, conclude the Kiddush with the B’rachah Shehechiyanu.
Please remember that Yizkor – Memorial Service takes place on the second day of Shavuot, June 13th at about 10.45
Rabbi & Rebbetzin Kupperman and Rabbi & Rebbetzin Gilbert wishing you Happy Shavuot!