Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,
Reb Zalman z”l — Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, of blessed memory; a formative teacher for me before and during rabbinical school — used to say that revelation is like the radio. God is the Source of the broadcast, and that broadcast is always streaming into creation. And as for us? We’re radio receivers. We receive revelation on the levels to which we’re attuned.
I love the image of the divine broadcast constantly streaming into creation. And the idea that God is still speaking is not a new one. Maybe you remember the story of how we received Torah at Sinai, as told in the book of Exodus and again in Deuteronomy. That story has fire and thunder and the sound of the shofar, and is very dramatic. But there’s another story of divine encounter that takes place in that same spot, and the second story is a bit different.
The second story is about the prophet Elijah, and it’s in the book of Kings. In that story, Elijah goes to Mount Horeb (another name for Sinai) and has an encounter with God. First there is a fire, but the text says that God is not in the fire. There’s a mighty whirlwind, but the text says God is not in the whirlwind, either. Then there is a still small voice, and that’s where the book of Kings says God is found. We hear God in the still small voice within. Surely that still small voice is always calling us into becoming! That’s part of what Shavuot is about for me.
Shavuot is our festival of revelation when we celebrate receiving Torah at Sinai. Our tradition teaches that every Jewish soul that ever was and ever will be was mystically present at Sinai when we received Torah. When we gather together on Shavuot, we can open ourselves to the revelation that is always streaming — the divine broadcast just waiting for us to attune our inner radios and hear.
On Shavuot night we’ll delve into the continued flowering of insight and learning about the Torah we’ve received from our ancestors, as well as some of the new wisdom that the still small voice speaks through us even now.
This year we’ll celebrate Shavuot at CBI starting at 8pm on Saturday, June 4. Like last year, we’re partnering with Temple Beth El of City Island. (They’ll be gathering on Zoom; as of now our plan is to offer an onsite option in the sanctuary and a Zoom option for those who prefer it.)
I’ll join with Rabbi David Markus in leading Festival Ma’ariv (evening services) with Hallel (praise-songs) and Yizkor (memorial prayers). After services, we’ll enter into the ancient practice of the Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, the late-night Shavuot learning-fest.
This year our learning will be themed around doorways and liminality, transitions and transformation. If you would like to teach something, please reach out to me and let me know!
I hope you’ll plan to join us for what promises to be a beautiful celebration of Torah and transformation. What is the Torah the world most needs now? Join us in opening heart and soul to that revelation — and may it nourish us for the season to come and the work ahead.
Blessings to all,
— Rabbi Rachel