Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot
The Pilgrimage Festivals: Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot
In ancient times, the three harvest holidays of spring (Passover), summer (Shavuot) and fall (Sukkot) were times of great pilgrimage and celebration. Jews from far and wide would journey to Jerusalem to dedicate the first fruits of their harvests, giving thanks and praying for continued abundance.
Today, these joyous weeks of our calendar are still times of celebration and togetherness, as we rejoice in our gifts, our history, and in our festivals. We imbue new meaning into sacred practices, authentic and relevant to our lives today.
This eight-day holiday in the early spring marks a new beginning, as we cleanse our homes of bread and leavened products, and re-tell the story of leaving 400 years of slavery in Egypt. It is called the Season of Our Freedom.
As a Jewish community dedicated to social justice, we look to Passover to provide guidance and ignite the fires of our fight for Freedom for All.
On the second night of Passover, we gather for a community Seder, guided by Rav Bracha. With singing, storytelling, discussion and ritual, we re-live the exodus from Egypt - and enjoy a delicious vegetarian kosher-for-passover-style potluck feast.
The seven week period between Passover and Shavuot (see below) was originally a period of some anxiety, as the all-important wheat crop matured. In the days of Jerusalem Temple, an omer, a specific measurement of wheat, was offered on the altar each day.
For the kabbalists, this period became an ideal time for introspection and self-perfection, with each week in the process dedicated to one of the sephirot, or cosmic aspects of being - Pure Giving; Boundaries; Balance; Eternality; Ephemerality; Bonding; and Manifestation.
At Nevei Kodesh, we follow this kabbalistic sequence, with weekly meditations and suggestions for practice, as we complete the journey out of inner bondage, and prepare to be able to receive Divine revelation.
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Shavuot (Weeks: The Receiving of the Torah)
Perhaps the least well known of the three pilgrimage holidays (links to para at top), Shavuot, the feast of Weeks, is no less important. It is called the Season of the Gift of Our Torah, and commemorates the collective Divine revelation experienced at Mt Sinai.
As we culminate the practice of counting the Omer, the 49 days since the beginning of Passover, we celebrate Shavuot by joining with the rest of the Boulder Jewish community for an all-night program of study led by the community’s rabbis and educators. This practice, which dates from the medieval period, is called a Leyl Tikkun or Tikkun Leyl - a night of perfection.
The evening begins with a joyous communal meal, followed by a panel of local rabbis discussing topics such as the meaning of “divine revelation,” or the idea of humanity being “in the image of God.” For the brave and hardy, the night of study concludes with a daybreak prayer and Torah service, where the 10 Commandments are chanted for all to hear.
The third and final harvest holiday was once the greatest festival of the Jewish year. As communities celebrated the fruit harvest and gathered in the last of their produce before the oncoming fall, they would live in the fields for seven days, feasting and partying in rustic lean-to shelters, or sukkot.
In our day, congregants young and old gather to build and decorate our 25 x 15 foot community Sukkah, located outside the south wall of the Sanctuary. For seven days we eat, study, pray and hang out in our beautiful Sukkah, decorated with local wildflowers and vegetation; the Sukkah is always open, and members and guests are invited to drop in any time. Mi sukkah su sukkah!