Ksharim Adult Education Course 32 – Counting down to Shavuot

Perhaps more than any other holidays, the shalosh haregalim – the three pilgrimage festivals of Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot – are rich in physical associations with Eretz Yisrael. All three were originally festivals of thanksgiving for the bounty of the land, so they speak of the produce of Israel and the seasons of Israel – and, because they involved a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, they speak of the geography of the land as well. As we observed them in their somewhat abstract, attenuated form in exile, they served as a constant link, a sort of virtual reality connection, between Jewish life throughout the world and the physical reality of Eretz Yisrael. And when we consider that Sukkot is eight days, and the period from the beginning of Pesach through Shavuot is over seven weeks, we realize that for two full months of the year the Diaspora Jew lives through a symbolic reenactment of the experience of farming in Eretz Yisrael. This is a powerful form of Israel engagement; it is of interest for us consider what kind of relevance and meaning it can have for non-orthodox urban/suburban Diaspora Jews living in the plastic age. This unit focuses on the agricultural origins of the Omer counting and of Shavuot, and explores the place of these days in modern Israeli culture.

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