Friday, May 18, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Shavuot


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We've quite literally been counting down the days until our next holiday, Shavuot, which begins this weekend. Starting on the second night of Passover, we count every day until we reach 50. Since we celebrate receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai on Shavuot, it makes sense that the holiday is linked to Passover. After leaving Egypt, the Israelites spent seven weeks in the desert before entering into the covenant with God.

Most people know The Ten Commandments, and some assume that they are the foundation of the Jewish moral code. But the Torah actually contains 613 commandments if you count every time God says "Do this" and "Don't do that" to the Jewish people. Some of those 613 are now impossible for us to observe (bringing sacrifices to the Temple) and some probably seem downright ridiculous to many of us now (not wearing clothing made with both linen and wool). But there are many others in those 613 that are, in my opinion, just as important as The Top Ten:


  • We are commanded to pay workers the day they complete their work so as not to take advantage of them: "On his day you should give his wages, the sun should not set on it, because he is a poor man and his life depends on it…"
  • "Do not put a stumbling block before the blind," which can be interpreted to mean that we shouldn't put any kind of barrier in front of anyone on their way to success or happiness
  • "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Children can most definitely relate to Shavuot and its celebration of the Torah, which in so many ways is a how-to book of rights and wrongs. Children thrive when they know what the rules are, when clear boundaries and expectations have been outlined and are enforced. Children feel more secure knowing that there are limits to their behavior, as well as the behavior of others. They feel safer and become more confident as a result. 

A great story to share with your children is No Rules for Michael by Sylvia A. Rouss. Michael thinks school would be more fun without rules, so his teacher (wisely) suggests a day without rules. Quickly Michael becomes frustrated and sad. At the end of the book he says, "No one will listen to me. No one will give me a turn. No one will share. I guess rules are important. Rules show people how to care about each other."


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