Thursday, June 23, 2016

50 Days Later

50 days after the first day of Passover come Shavuot. The day, better know to me as Pentecost, commemorates the handing down of the law from Mount Sinai 50 days after the Exodus. But it's not just about the law. There's a lot wrapped up in this little day. Here are some other things it's known as:

The Feast of Weeks
The harvest of wheat in Israel (Festival of Reaping)
The conclusion of the counting of the Omer
The Day of First Fruits (interestingly, this the second observance of firstfruits during the year)
Atzeret (holding back)

In Bible times, the remembrance of this day involved cutting stalks of the first ripening grain and delivering it to the temple (in a basket made of gold or silver, on the back of an oxen with gilded horns. It was a huge procession into the city with parades and music and celebration.

Today's observance has less fanfare. Some groups stay up all night studying the Torah. Others just read through the book of Ruth (a famous story of the wheat harvest). And everyone eats dairy. Cheese blintzes, cheesecake, cheese raviolis, cheesy pancakes... you get the picture.

Pentecost was a big deal to the Jews in Jesus' day, and so was a big deal to those of them who became Christians on that day.

I've done so well all year celebrating each of the feasts, but I didn't get my heart into this one. For one thing, we've got a lot going on at our house these days and I don't have a lot of brain waves left over for this project/experience. Also, as I've celebrated each feast, I've pulled in friends who were willing to participate with me. For some reason, I thought this one was a hard sell, so I "celebrated" on my own. I wish I hadn't. I should have taken the time to acknowledge the importance of God giving his law, of the way he provides through our crops each year, and of how the Spirit descended to earth on the same day as the law once had done the same. There's liberty in that.

I did read the book of Ruth and was struck by how what seems to be such a sweet story of loyalty and love has such an undercurrent of suffering and uncertainty.

I did spend time in my garden which, while not offering any first fruits yet (except strawberries and blueberries), is a good place for me to acknowledge the importance of the life cycle of the year.

I did not stay up all night studying the Torah, though I kind of wish I had. It's the kind of thing that sounds hard and uncomfortable, but I know it would pay rewards that I cannot anticipate. If one of you would like to do this with me one night, I'd be more likely to make it through with some company.

I did not fix a bunch of cheese desserts, though that sounds amazing.

I'm disappointed in myself on this one, like I cheated myself out of the experience of the last true holiday in my Jewish year. There's a minor fast in August commemorating the destruction of the two temples, but by then my head will be deep in plans and dreams for next year, my New Testament year.

In past years, the disappointment would have come because I somehow failed. I set a goal and I did not work hard enough to achieve. Shame on me.

That's not the me of today. Today's disappointment comes from knowing I missed something good and profound. I looked at this feast from the outside and it looked like too much trouble for the payoff. But this one wasn't supposed to be about me. It was supposed to be about God.

Acknowledging his goodness.
Remembering the rescue from slavery.
Seeing the law as a gift for its time and the Spirit as the true gift for all time.
Thanking him for feeding us, for bringing food up from the dirt.
And cheese.

Photo credit: maiptitfleur via StoolsFair / CC BY-NC-ND

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