Shavuot celebrates the first fruit harvest but comes in the middle of the harvest. Sometimes the holiday was overlooked and even the Israelite farmers didn’t stop working. Today the holiday is tied to the covenant at Sinai. Since a sense of responsibility to God and community is almost counter cultural in the modern era, we feel a special responsibility to make Shavuot work. One of the ways we do this is with a “wilderness” retreat. We’ve slept in tents at Camps Beber and Olin Sang Ruby. We’ve had a virtual tour of Israel for families with Itai Tennenbaum and upgraded our music with LA’s Dale Schatz when we were at Camp Henry Horner. We lived out the covenantal agenda with workshops on dealing with death and heard an update from our representative at the White House.
On Tisha B’Av we formally mourn the destruction of the Temple and our need to recreate Judaism in the form of rabbinic Judaism. Every year we explore a different theme of Jewish transformation that affects us. We have looked at the death of Jewish hospitals, the end of classic reform Judaism, the evolution of conservative Judaism, the loss of Zionism as an intellectual force in American Jewish life and the changing definitions of what it is to measure what Jewishness is. Rabbi Joseph Tabachnik z”l shared his own life’s journey to illustrate the changing role of the rabbi. A few years ago Aaron Freeman explained and demonstrated how significant humor is in mourning and thereby in sustaining the Jewish people through centuries of triumph, turmoil, and trauma.