I wrote about Shavuot and Pentecost last year. I don’t want to rehash completely for those of you who have been following me for a while. But for the newcomers, I’ll give a brief recap. Shavuot is the Feast of Weeks in Judaism, about fifty days after Passover. In the Christian calendar, Pentecost is observed about 50 days after Easter. Realizing that the first Easter coincided with Passover, these Holy Days are intertwined. Most Rabbis regard Shavuot as the real birthday of the Jewish people; the anniversary of the day when G-d gave the Ten Commandments and took His People and they took Him to be their G-d. Some regard it as a betrothal. I prefer to think of it as adoption. Many Christian Pastors, Ministers and Priests will teach that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, the day the Holy Spirit came upon and en-dwelled believers, giving them Power to be Christ’s witnesses.
This year, it all strikes me in a much more personal way. Maybe it’s that just a couple weeks ago the Torah portion included Leviticus 24 and 25. But that regularly happens. It has just struck me differently this year. In those chapters of the Torah, G-d says several times, ‘You are Mine, and I brought you out of Egypt to serve Me. You shall not be slaves of each other or slaves of any other nation. And the land is mine, too. So, every 50 years you shall return the land to its ancestral holdings.’ I used to read that and see it tied in with teachings on charity and how the rich man who buys a Hebrew slave, he only has him for seven years. And in that time the rich man is supposed to train his brother to run a business (or a farm) and a household, so that he can go free and be a productive citizen. But this year, what struck me was the phrases ‘You are Mine…to be My servants.’ It calls to mind the phrase from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, “you were bought with a price,” and from St. Peter in 1 Peter, “the Master who bought them.”
So, I remember hearing Pastors and Ministers preach, “Easter isn’t really over until we get to Pentecost.” And I remember hearing Rabbis teach, “Passover isn’t really complete until we get to Shavuot.” And in the middle between the two sets of Holy Days is this idea that we have been bought by G-d, with Miracles of Passover and paid with the blood of Messiah (Christ). To the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and the Matriarchs (Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah), G-d said he was making a covenant with them and their descendants, but the emphasis always seemed to be on the Patriarch. At Shavuot, it is unmistakable that God is taking us, not just the Patriarchs, to be His People. Extending the personalization of Passover — we are supposed to relive the events leading up to and including the Exodus, and to regard it as our deliverance from our own Egypt, Shavuot and Pentecost mark not just the generic anniversary of when G-d chose His people. It also marks each of our personal covenant back with G-d, our personal adoption into the family of G-d, when He became our G-d and our Father in Heaven, when we became His child(ren).
It reminds me of Benjamin Franklin’s answer, when asked what the religion of America was (and this story is probably apocryphal….). Perhaps the asker hoped to get Franklin to say, “Congregationalist,” or “Calvinist,” validating on sect and excluding others. Franklin didn’t respond with such specificity. Instead he said, “Americans believe that there is one God who made all things; that he governs the World by his Providence; that he ought to be worshipped by Adoration, Prayer and Thanksgiving; But that the most acceptable Service of God is doing good to Man; that the Soul is immortal; and that God will certainly reward Virtue and punish Vice either here or hereafter.” Franklin did not specify any sect. Instead he gave a generalized description of principles that summarized the American way of life and includes all sects of Christianity and Judaism, and so many other religions as well.
Love G-d. Love your neighbor. The rest is commentary.
Thank you for taking a moment out of your Pentecost, Shavuot, or just out of your day, to share my thoughts on these Holy Days and on being a Child of Heaven. I appreciate each of you who read me. Why not take a moment and share a story from your own experience in the comments?
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Opinions expressed in my writings are my own, unless otherwise quoted, and not necessarily those of my employers.
Benjamin Franklin and William Duane, The Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 1, p. 38. Philadelphia: McCarty & Davis, 1840.