Tuesday, June 3, 2014

SHABUOT: 5 customs in 1 word

Tonight we will celebrate Shabu'ot, the day we stood at the foot
of Mt. Sinai to be appointed as God's chosen people and receive the Tora.
There are 5 Minhaguim (customs) that most Jews follow on Shabu'ot. To remember them, keep in mind the Hebrew word
A /HA/ R/ I/ T .  א ח ר י ת
 A: Azharot or Aqdamot. During Shabu'ot we read these beautiful poems which contain the 248 positive commandments and the 365 Biblical prohibitions. The word azharot means warnings, i.e., rules, precepts. (also 613= אזהרת).
HA: Halab (milk), like any other Yom Tob during Shabu'ot we should have a meal with meat and wine to fulfill the Mitzva of simha (material happiness). Still, the custom is that some of the meals are dairy, which is tradition particular to Shabu'ot, and it is not followed in any other Holiday.
R : Ruth. During Shabu'ot we study Megilat Ruth. Among the many reasons for reading the story of Ruth is that when Ruth converted to Judaism she accepted the Tora upon herself. Likewise, in Shabu'ot we celebrate our acceptance of the Tora and becoming the Jewish nation.  Another reason for reading Megilat Ruth is that from Ruth we learn the dependency of the written Tora on the Oral Tora, because by the letter of the Tora, Ruth, a Moabite, could not have been accepted as a convert. 
I : Yereq (Greens). Many communities have the custom to decorate their Synagogues with plants, flowers or tree branches to remember Mt. Sinai. We still treasure in our collective memory that when the Tora was given to us, Mt. Sinai was green and blossoming with flowers. In the Persian tradition Shabu'ot is known as mo'eed gol (the festival of flowers).
 T : Tiqun (Reparation). The custom is to stay awake studying Tora during the night of Shabu'ot (Tuesday night until Wednesday morning) to repair for our ancestors who went to sleep the night of the sixth of Sivan instead of waiting awake for the giving of the Tora, which was taking place the following morning.