You dont have to be a (cheese) whiz to enjoy Shavuot

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Ready for cheesecake and all-night study sessions? It’s time for Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the revelation of Torah to the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Along with Passover and Sukkot, Shavuot is one of three historic pilgrimage festivals, during which, according to the Bible, Israelites came from all corners of the land to celebrate at the Temple in Jerusalem. This year, Shavuot begins at sundown on Saturday, June 11, and lasts for two full days.

Shavuot is known for dairy desserts and staying up all night. The reasons for piling on the cheesecake and blintzes are obscure and unclear — not that anyone minds the religious excuse to indulge.

The all-nighter, called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, began with 16th-century Jewish mystics. says, “The mystics had the idea that at midnight the heavens open and favorably receive the thoughts, study and prayers of those who remain awake on the anniversary of the Revelation.” A prominent study text for Tikkun Leil Shavuot is the biblical book of Ruth, traditionally read on Shavuot.

Here are a few ways to get in on the dessert and study action around the Bay Area:


Wednesday, June 8

“Advanced Shavuot for Beginners.” Rabbi Zac Kamenetz looks at development of “revelation” in Judaism and role of Torah in Jewish history. Bring your own lunch. At JCCSF, 3200 California St., S.F. 12 to 1 p.m. Free.


Thursday, June 9

“Preparing for Revelation.” Jewish Renewal Rabbi Shefa Gold leads evening of Hebrew chant. At Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince St., Berkeley. 7 p.m. $20-$30.


Saturday, June 11

Tikkun Leyl Shavuot with Southside Jewish Collaborative. Potluck dairy dessert, Havdallah and late-night Torah service. Study with rabbis from Beth Israel Judea, B’nai Emunah, Ner Tamid, Or Shalom. At Beth Israel Judea/Or Shalom, 625 Brotherhood Way, S.F. 7:30 p.m. Free.

“Inclusivity and Diversity.” Tikkun Leyl Shavuot for Sonoma County. Teachers and smorgasbord of dairy delicacies. At Congregation Shomrei Torah, 2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. 7 p.m. Free.

Shavuot California Street corridor crawl. Annual walk-and-study in San Francisco starts at Sherith Israel, 2264 California St., 8:30 p.m.; moves to JCCSF, 3200 California St., 10 p.m.; Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., 11:30 p.m.; Toy Boat Dessert Cafe, 401 Clement St., 12:30 a.m.; last leg begins 2 a.m. at Beth Sholom, where it finishes with a morning service at 5:45 a.m. Free.

“Swimming in the Sea of Torah.” All-night Shavuot study. With yoga, poetry workshops, singing, food and morning cereal bar. Co-sponsored by Addison-Penzak JCC and several synagogues. At Congregation Beth David, 19700 Prospect Road, Saratoga. 9:45 p.m. to 6:45 a.m. June 12. $6.

Tikkun Leyl Shavuot East Bay. All-night study session/celebration. With singing, learning and meditation. Childcare available with pre-registration. At JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. June 12. Free.


Sunday, June 12

“Chant and Hike up the Mountain of Revelation.” Occidental hike (moderate), chant and study led by Rabbi Shefa Gold. Co-sponsored by Zmanim, Ner Shalom and B’nai Israel Jewish Center. Includes nature experience for children led by Wilderness Torah. Starts at Oceansong Community, 19100 Coleman Valley Road, Occidental. 2-5 p.m. $20 adults, $7 kids, under 6 free.

Ice Cream party. Interfaith families’ ice cream party, with free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. InterfaithFamily Bay Area event. RSVP requested. At Douglass Playground, Douglass at 26th streets, S.F. 4 to 6 p.m. Free. — j. staff