It’s Shavuot, and while I am here, my wife is at a synagogue where they will spend much of the night in study. This, along with some fine blintzes we had tonight is one of the nicer customs of this holiday. I still remember that as a child we wore all white to celebrate shavuot, and one particularly cheesy memory includes some sort of headband made from wheat stalks and some other “fruits of the land.”
We know from ancient historians that on this holiday, one of the three regalim that were occasions to journey on a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, Israelites from Israel, Judea and even other nations such as Babylon would make the journey, or send emissaries on the behalf. This was a harvest festival, an agricultural celebration and thanks to God. After the Temple was destroyed, early rabbis began the transformation of this holiday to a celebration of the giving to the Torah at Sinai to the people of Israel. Matan Torah.
Tonight we invited friends over. There were a zillion kids running around and ignoring any discussion of the holiday and the Torah (well, except for the part where they had to listen because they couldn’t touch the food unless they did). Everybody brought some food and it was a nice mix because somebody did bring fruit and vegetables they had grown while another brought blintzes that reminded us all of, well, an earlier generation of Jewish mothers circa 1950s and 1960s. We discussed conversion (sorry folks, the discussion began because of a friend who had just converted within the Reform movement and who will now add her vivacity and lovely personality to the Jewish people, raise her children as Jews, celebrate Jewish holidays as a Jew and will never be recognized by many Jews as a Jew), the Torah, the ten commandments and of course, Jewish education. Then my wife went out to the synagogue.
So I thought about what might be worthwhile to share with you all on this chag, and remembered that I had seen an ad for online Hebrew and Judaism courses. I don’t mean this to be an advertisement, and I welcome anybody to suggest other resources, but this ad touted a serious online program at Hebrew College, a transdenominational college in MA, that declares its mission as follows:
Through the study of Jewish religion, culture, civilization and Hebrew language, Hebrew College is committed to educating students of all ages and backgrounds to become knowledgeable, creative participants, educators and leaders in the Jewish community and the larger world.
They offer what seems to be an intensive online series of courses, and while I have no idea about the costs involved, nor can I vouch for their quality at all, they appear to be a serious institution and I would think that this might be an interesting pursuit for those who wish to further their education. Face it, other than using your time wisely by reading Jewlicious daily, there aren’t many other Internet activities that would serve your personal Jewish growth as greatly.
You can locate Hebrew College’s website here.
You can download their Hebrew program catalogue here (pdf).