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Jewish learning Tikkun Leyl Shavuot Together with Our Partners

By Hebrew College

“As someone who loves the study of Jewish texts, a holiday whose main observance is the all-night study of Jewish texts is of course going to be something I love.” Those are the words of Rabbi Dan Judson, dean of the rabbinical school, but the words also reflect the endearing Torah-centered education that Hebrew College seeks to inspire in the hearts of its rabbis, cantors, Jewish educators, and community learners. To foster that love of Torah, Hebrew College and Temple Reyim, along with our other supporting partners, will join and celebrate this Jewish tradition of Tikkun Leyl Shavuot for the first time on our new shared campus. Our celebration begins at 6 p.m. and ends at midnight—but learners are invited to join us for all or part of the evening.

Speaking of his first real introduction to a Shavuot tikkun while living in Jerusalem, Judson remembered, “The custom is to stay up all night studying Jewish texts, and just before dawn, people who studied all night walk to the kotel (the Western Wall) for morning prayers there. The vision of people half-bleary from sleep deprivation streaming onto the streets in a collective pilgrimage to the old city is one of my most enduring and sweetest memories of life in Jerusalem.”

The tradition itself finds its roots in 16th century Tzfat in northern Israel. In the words of Rabbi Daniel Berman of Temple Reyim, one of the co-organizers of the campus celebration, “Drawing on a midrash that the Israelites overslept on the day Torah was to be given, only to be awakened by God sounding the blast of the shofar, Rabbi Isaac Luria developed this practice of staying up all night so that we are ready to receive ongoing revelation. On Shavuot, there is particular openness in the cosmos to a kind of mutual revelation, and I always find it powerful to imagine that our thoughts and prayers are being revealed to—and received by—God.”

The inaugural shared campus Tikkun Leyl Shavuot focuses on questions related to identity and faith. “Shavuot is powerful in telling and celebrating the specific story of revelation of Torah. Our rabbinic tradition also sees revelation as an ongoing Divine act that can touch everyone made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of the Divine,” added Rabbi Berman, a 2010 graduate of Hebrew College.

From “On Race and Faith: Religious Texts and Stories That Continue to Shape the Relationship Among Black Christian and Jewish Communities” to “Words that Come from the Heart Enter the Heart: A Circle of Poetry and Niggin,” the teachings of the evening reflect the richness and diversity of our shared campus. “Most of the workshops take up the question of Judaism, race, and faith from different perspectives,” said Rabbi Judson. Just as a of sample these intersecting topics, the evening will open with a dialogue between ministers and rabbis who have been meeting weekly for the past three years to discuss race, racism, and the place of faith and scripture in their lives. Rabbi Or Rose, the director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership, will then teach about two foundational figures in the Black and Jewish communities. Rabbi Dan Judson will also look at the history of Jewish-African American relations in the early twentieth century.

“Drawing on the life and work of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and many other rabbis and Jewish leaders who devoted their lives to being part of a broader conversation of faith and justice, we believe that learning and partnering with the Black community and other communities of faith is one of the most important ways we continue to engage in our most sacred work of seeking God’s presence, finding purpose in our lives, and standing up for our most cherished values,” said Berman.

The Shavuot tikkun is a welcome space for people of all ages. Two of the workshops even specifically target teens and their families. Bridget Connor-Feldbaum, who further links the partnership between Reyim and the College as the director of youth engagement at Temple Reyim and director of the Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston at Hebrew College, will lead two discussions related to race for the teens. In the first, “An Interactive Program for Parents and Young Children—The Ten Best Ways: Torah Godly Play on Standing at Mt. Sinai,” Connor-Feldbaum will introduce Torah Godly Play, which she learned from Hebrew College’s Rabbi Michael Shire. “I’m excited to share Torah Godly Play. I find it to be so great for literally all ages—everyone seems to get something out of it regardless of their age.”

Connor-Feldbaum will also be leading a teen breakout session with Rabbi Berman on discussing race and religious identity. “I’m interested to hear their experiences and perspectives—I learn so much from working with teens, so I always look forward to it!” said Connor-Feldbaum.

While there are a great many options, Judson, in addition to the two teachings he will be part of, is most excited about the Yetzirah Jewish Poetry Salon, a special gathering of world-class poets. “It is rare that such a collection of well-regarded Jewish poets come together to talk about the process of writing poetry, so I am most excited to hear them speak. I just heard Ben Berman give a talk on his new book of essays and he is so wise and so sweet and so knowledgeable about American literature that I could hear him speak again and again.”

Learn more about Tikkun Leyl Shavuot 2023/5783, the programing for the event, and how to register on our website.

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