Shavuot is the perfect opportunity for Jewish learning

They call us the People of the Book. In the days ahead, during the festival of Shavuot, we can prove them right.

Over the millennia, Jews have celebrated Shavuot in different ways. Traditionally, the holiday signifies both the agricultural harvest and the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai.

It also concludes the Counting of the Omer, which takes place during the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot –– the first holiday marking our liberation from physical bondage, the second a more spiritual liberation via the gift of Torah.

Many Jews enjoy a dairy meal during Shavuot, as a reminder of the Land of Milk and Honey. Many read from the Book of Ruth. But catching on with greater enthusiasm every year is the tradition of the tikkun leyl Shavuot: staying up all night to delve deep into Torah study with one’s fellow Jews.

There’s nothing quite like the thrumming communal energy of a tikkun leyl Shavuot. It draws Jews of every stripe, from the most observant to the least. A love of learning brings them all together under one roof.

As our story on page 2 explains, the Bay Area has several superb events this Shavuot, most of them taking place on the first night, Tuesday, May 18. Most are family-friendly, with the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay even offering onsite overnight child care.

The California Street traveling Shavuot in San Francisco will have participants parading from one synagogue to another (as well as to the JCC of San Francisco), studying with rabbis of every denomination.

As Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi of the Orthodox Congregation Chevra Thilim says in our story, “The one thing that does unite all Jews around the world is we have one Torah.”

Nothing has held the Jewish people together across time and space like the Torah. Even into the modern age, when  many Jews have parted ways with piety, they still uphold values firmly rooted in Torah, such as social justice and a love of learning.

The gravitational tug of Torah guarantees we can never drift too far from our source.

Yes, it’s a school night. Yes, most of us have to go to work the next day. But we urge our readers to attend one of the tikkun leyl Shavuot events, even if not everyone can stay up all night. There are few better opportunities to learn and commune with fellow Jews.

And when the sun rises the next morning, you may not feel as sleepy as you expect. The excitement of Jewish learning is the best kind of stimulant.