blintzes.jpg…but not so much for the lactose-intolerant. The holiday of Torah study and dairy products is once again upon us, and here in New York, Upper West Side supermarkets respond in the only language they know how…by raising the price of blintzes to $3.79 a box. (Don’t bother looking for this tidbit on the Smoking Gun or anywhere–prices go up in New York all the time, especially at kosher places which anticipate a gastronomic need depending on the nature of the imminent holiday. You’ll just have to trust me.)

But if you were a smart shopper and already bought or made your own blintzes and cheesecakes, then you’re likely pondering your study options. Every city with a substantial Jewish community seems to have recently taken on the custom of “Tikkun Leil Shavuot,” the tradition of staying up and studying, greeting the dawn with the most rushed and non-kavvanah filled Shacharit service ever before you stumble home and into bed to sleep the morning away.

Topics at the Tikkunim usually range from the esoteric and text-based to the pop-culture-ridden sociocultural commentary and analysis of human interaction, but the goal for every speaker is, underneath it all, the same…the desire to teach something, but not lull the willingly congregated into a mellifluous orchestra of audible snoring.

So how to avoid snoring after a long week and when potentially confronted with speakers who run the gamut from “riveting, but gee it’s late” to “booooring…and gee it’s late”? Glad you asked–here’s a piece I wrote a while back when I was working at JTS that advises Tikkunmeisters on how to survive a night of intensive Torah study/sleep deprivation.

And personally, I try to envision what it must have been like for the Jewish people at the base of Mount Sinai, congregated in the shadow of the mountain, waiting for the rules that would change their lives and wondering what the future would hold for them. The feeling of not knowing what tomorrow would look like, what they’d be expected to do, wondering about the rules they’d receive…powerless to do anything but talk, talk they did, to neighbors and anyone who would listen, conjecturing and interpreting as a community exercise…that’s the moment of awe that I hope for every Shavuot.

And for those of you only in it for the dessert, just remember to take your Lactaid. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Hag sameah.

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Esther Kustanowitz

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  • I love shavuot. It is one of my favorite holidays and last year I didn’t need any caffiene to make it through the night. It was a total blast and I’m trying to drag more of my friends with me this year, we’ll see.

  • Esther, great list of suggestions! I agree with Leah: bringing your friends who are similarly enthused with Jewish learning is a great way to stay awake.

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