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Shavuot 5783-2023 at FTJC

image of manuscript with handwritten hebrew text descending from above to below

In smoke and fire, concealed and revealed, the Torah comes to us as a gift from God. On Shavuot, we open ourselves at night to receive the Torah, and enact our presence at Mount Sinai in the morning with Torah reading and celebration.

As in recent years we are pleased to offer overnight learning indoors, and afternoon learning outdoors.

Join us for festival prayers, joyful and song-filled Hallel, and chanting of the Ten Commandments. Hear the once-a-year sacred poetry of “Akdamut.” And how can you miss the four-chapter, four-handkerchief love story of Ruth? Yizkor will be held on Day 2 to honor and bless the memory of our deceased family and friends.

Quick Links:

Tikkun Leil Shavuot

Day 1 Services and Learning Opportunities

Day 2 Services and Community Picnic


Tikkun Leil Shavuot — All Night Torah Study!

Thursday May 25, 9:30 PM, through Friday May 26, 7:00 AM
Location: Hebrew Tabernacle Social Hall

Ma'ariv at 9:30 PM

Classes from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM
Early Shacharit Service from 5:00 to 7:00 AM

Fueled by caffeine and cheesecake, light-headed from lack of sleep, we enter an altered state of mind and body that can open us up to new insights. New friends may also be revealed as we gather, laugh, and learn.

This year's theme: "The Joy of Torah":

The Torah (Devarim 16:11) enjoins us to have simchah, to rejoice, on the holiday of Shavuot. We see the concept of simchah mentioned in many of our texts, especially those dealing with holidays, but do we actually know what it means? This Shavuot, as we celebration the revelation of receiving our Torah, our thematic lens is simchah itself. We will learn more about what it means to experience true joy, and how we can carry this concept with us even in challenging times. Is there a difference between happiness and joy? Why are there so many different words in Hebrew that all seem to describe this same concept? How is studying Torah a source of joy? Join us for joyful, communal learning!

Coffee, cheesecake, and other treats will be available.

Space will also be available for independent learning on one's own or with a study partner.

10:00 PM – "No Happiness Without Meat: How Do We Rejoice on Yom Tov?" with Reyzl Geselowitz
On this dairy-loving holiday of Shavuot, we will look at rabbinic sources about the obligation to rejoice on holidays, including Rambam's famous statement that "there is no happiness without partaking of meat." Participants will also have the opportunity to share their own favorite holiday traditions.
Reyzl Geselowitz is FTJC's incoming Director of Youth & Family Learning, and has taught Jewish Studies for 10 years at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan.

11:00 PM – "The Message of Joy" with Rabbi Lisa Goldstein
What are emotions in general and joy in particular actually for? In this session we will explore joy's meaning through the lenses of both Torah and contemporary psychology. We will also sing!
When not at FTJC board meetings, Rabbi Lisa Goldstein spends a lot of time thinking about the nexus between education, Jewish spirituality and complex trauma healing.

12:00 AM – "The Joy of Counting" with Daphi Ezrachi
Counting the Omer from Pesach to Shavuot can be a great source of joy and satisfaction, but also frustration, guilt, and agony! We'll learn various aspects of the Omer and consider the emotional payoff that's offered by completing the count.
Daphna Ezrachi is an FTJC member who works as Manager of Sustainability Programs at NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development.

1:00 AM – "The Simchah of Authenticity and Identity: Showing Up for Jews of Color" with Rebecca Cruz
This session will be a conversation about what it’s like to be a Jew of color in a predominantly white community, and how our community can better show up for, embrace, and celebrate the identities that don’t always “fit”. Please bring your open heart and curious questions so we can open up what we hope will become an ongoing conversation in our community.
Rebecca Cruz is a senior at Hunter College, has been living in Washington Heights for almost three years, and has loved being a part of the FTJC community for the past year.

2:00 AM – "Yismach Moshe? The Mystery of Moshe's Joy" with Rabbi Guy Austrian
Why does the siddur claim that Moshe experienced simchah? He doesn't seem like a very happy guy! Not at Mount Sinai and not elsewhere, as he endures the burdens of life and leadership. Through liturgy and midrash, we'll try to figure out whether gritted teeth or a gladdened heart is the real nature of simchah for Moshe--and for us.
Rabbi Guy Austrian serves as spiritual leader of FTJC.

3:00 AM – "Learning Joyfulness in the Negative" with Dani Kogan
By diving into some sources that say all of the things that joy isn't, we will get closer in our understanding of what joy is and can be. How can a multi-faceted approach to joy impact our liturgy and approach to prayer?
Dani Kogan has been a proud member of FTJC since the summer of 2017.

4:00 AM – "Recognizing the Good: An Exploration of the Blessing, Hatov Vehameitiv" with Rabbi Alex Hamilton
What makes things in our life a little better? When is Shechiyanu the ideal blessing, and when is time for something else? We'll find out together through the halachah of blessings of joyful gratitude.
Rabbi Alex Hamilton was recently ordained at JTS and has been a member of FTJC for six years.


Shavuot Day 1 – Morning Services
Friday May 26, 9:00 AM
Hebrew Tabernacle Social Hall

Children's programming at 10:45 in Classroom 1 and 2, collectively led by parents if there are sufficient numbers of children present.

Featuring “Akdamut” (“Introductory Words”) — a strange and beautiful Aramaic poem that introduces the Shavuot reading of the Ten Commandments with sweeping theology and a vision of redemption.

Please note the early version of the service offered at 5:00 following the Tikkun Leil Shavuot (see above). All are welcome at either.

Shavuot Day 1 – Ice Cream!

Friday May 26, 12:00-2:00 PM, next to Javits playground, Fort Washington Ave near Margaret Corbin Circle.
After Day 1 services, come to the Mr. Softee truck that parks right outside the Jacob Javits playground. Vouchers will be available there from FTJC volunteers, as well as during our Shavuot learning and services. These are pre-paid vouchers that you can trade in for either one free serving of soft serve (chocolate or vanilla in a cone or cup with your choice of sprinkles) or a vegan icee. The vouchers can be used on Friday May 26 between 12pm-2pm. Kashrut note: Although the truck is not supervised, Mr. Softee ice cream mix, cones, and sprinkles have a hechsher.


Shavuot Day 1 – Daytime Learning Opportunities

Friday May 26, 3:00-5:00 PM, Cafe Lawn, Fort Tryon Park (enter from Margaret Corbin Circle and take a right on the first path).
Learning for grownups and playtime for children, all on the Cafe Lawn. Please bring blankets or folding chairs to sit on. Snacks and beverages also welcome. (In case of rain, we regretfully will be unable to gather.)

3:00 PM – "The Joy of Bitul Torah, or, Learning is Everywhere!" with Rabbi Salem Pearce
We know that “the ways of Torah are pleasant” — but many of us also find joy in other pastimes (as for example, baseball, cooking shows, true crime podcasts, or romance novels). We’ll explore — using Torah! how subversive! — how to bring the spiritual practice of the joy of Torah to other areas of our lives.
Rabbi Salem Pearce is thrilled to back at FTJC this Shavuot, away from her home in Durham, N.C., where she serves as Director of Spirituality at the Goldring/Wohlenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.

4:00 PM – "Happiness and Joy in Pirkei Avot" with Sandy Kessler
Is there a difference between happiness and joy? If so, what is it and how does it relate to the Torah? We'll learn what the Sages said in some key passages from Pirkei Avot.
Sandy Kessler, a member of FTJC, teaches political philosophy at John Jay College and is a long time reader of Pirkei Avot.


Shavuot Day 2 – Morning Services, with Megillat Ruth and Yizkor
Saturday May 27, 9:00 AM
Hebrew Tabernacle Social

Late Minyan, 9:30 AM, Classroom 2 (masks required)
Children's programming as usual on Shabbat mornings, with Jewish free play at 10:00 AM and tefillah at 10:45 AM.

Join us for Megillat Ruth, the original classic of love and loyalty — taking us from the harvest origins of Shavuot, through wrenching human relationships, to the footsteps of Messiah. We’ll also hold a Yizkor service – with psalms, readings, and the liturgy of mourning, we call to mind those who have left our world. We wrestle with the blessings and burdens of their lives and our remembering. Donations in honor of Yizkor may be made to FTJC by clicking here.

Shavuot Day 2 – Community Picnic!
Saturday May 27, 12:30 PM
Location: Bennett Park.
Join us after morning services. Bring your own dairy/pareve lunch, as well as blankets to sit on.

Fri, September 29 2023 14 Tishrei 5784