The publication date for this issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin is just after the conclusion of Passover. The rush and anxiety associated with Passover preparations will be behind us. The Passover seder with extended family and friends will be a thing of the past. Some will be feeling relief, while others will feel a void.
Either way, I am sure you will be glad to learn that there is another major holiday right around the corner, another biblical holiday with its own variation of meaningful customs and traditions. This of course is the holiday of Shavuot.
In a way, I sort of feel bad for Shavuot. It is so close to Passover that it seems to be overshadowed. In fact, it is of equal biblical significance. If you look at the spirit and meaning behind the holidays, I would argue that Shavuot may even be more important.
Shavuot is so important that, from the second day of Passover on, Jews around the world begin to demonstrate their eager anticipation for Shavuot by literally counting down the days. Every day, we make a special blessing as we count down towards Shavuot.
This is to emulate the original countdown. When the Jews were miraculously freed from Egypt, they were told they didn’t need to fear slavery under the mighty Pharaoh and Egyptian superpower. They would now experience a different type of slavery. They would now be slaves of God. In 49 days, they would receive the Decalogue on Mount Sinai with a set of instructions and rules to which they would be obliged to adhere.
Instead of resisting this new form of “slavery,” they celebrated its unique opportunity. They eagerly counted down the 49 days. And, on the 50th day, on a modest mountain in the desert under a spectacular sound and light show, the people heard God’s powerful voice and became a formal nation with their own identity, history and responsibility.
The commentaries share with us an interesting twist. When the Jews camped at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the Torah uses a perplexing term: “Vayichan sham yisrael neged hahar (And he camped opposite the Mountain).”
Why would the Torah use a singular term and “he” camped when referring to the nation of Israel. The explanation given is that, at the time of receiving the Torah, the nation was so unified, they were like one collective organism.
Perhaps, it was this unity that made them worthy of receiving this divine gift.
Jewish unity is not something of the past and it is not a cliché. It is a tangible aspiration for our beautiful and eclectic community. Here in Ottawa we can achieve unity.
That is why we at Chabad of Centrepointe are so proud to host, together with other worthy educational and community institutions, an annual Lag Ba’Omer festival of unity. A day when the Jewish community of Ottawa gathers together from every denomination to enjoy a parade with Jewish-themed floats and marching bands followed by a carnival and barbecue.
Please join us on Sunday, May 14, 3:30 pm, on the grounds of the Jewish Community Campus for an even bigger and better version of Lag Ba’Omer.
Let us see that our community is not great despite our differences; rather, we are great because of them.