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SHAVUOT 2017 / 5777

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  Chag Sameach! 
Shavuot @ Adas Israel
Recreating the Space Between Heaven and Earth
Beginning Tuesday Evening, May 30

Each year, in late spring or early summer, the Jewish calendar gives us the opportunity to ritualize and reenact the sacred obligation of receiving the Torah. Specifically at night, we cultivate the space to realize the constant and consistent flow of holiness—Torah—from heaven to earth, and earth back to heaven. In other words, Torah, in all its forms, fills the world, ready to be claimed by any of us, and then cradled, distilled, debated, and disseminated.

Through music, food, and inspiring words of Torah from DC-area clergy, prepare to be immersed in an evening that reimagines Mount Sinai, reclaims the space beneath its peak, and reasserts its wisdom for the ground on which we traverse.

Full Shavuot Schedule at Adas

Erev Shavuot, Tuesday, May 30 Light Candles at 8:09pm
7:00pm Maariv
7:30pm Kiddush

8:00pm Clergy-Led Torah Study
9:00pm  Outdoor Learning Experience

Shavuot Day 1, Sunday, May 31 Light Candles at 9:15pm
9:15am Combined Charles E. Smith Sanctuary & Traditional Egalitarian Minyan Service; Sermon by Rabbi Alexander

6:00pm Mincha/ Maariv / Kabbalat Chag

Shavuot Day 2, Monday, June 1
9:15am All invited to the service in the Charles E. Smith Sanctuary Service; Sermon by
Rabbi Steinlauf
11:00am Yizkor

1:00pm Mincha


Leading up to the Mountain, Counting the Omer
Shavuot literally means “weeks” as it occurs precisely seven weeks after the second day of Passover. The forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot are known as s’firat haomer (the counting of the omer), reminiscent of the days when farmers brought a measure (omer) of their newly harvested grain to the Temple. Join us during Ma’ariv each evening to count the Omer, and ritualistically add a portion of wheat to the row of glass jars in the front lobby, as an expression of our experience of counting.  

The Erev Learning
On the first night of Shavuot (this year, Tuesday evening, May 30), Jews throughout the world observe the centuries-old custom of conducting an all-night gathering dedicated to Torah learning and preparation for receiving the Torah anew the next morning. At Adas, learners of all ages will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and learn Torah. We will have multiple learning sessions to choose from with our dynamic clergy; see the full learning schedule above.

An Outdoor Shavuot Late Night Experience at Adas
This Shavuot, we’ll create a holy moment of capturing Torah in both thought and action, transforming our outdoor plaza into the bottom of the mountain—our eyes, ears, and hearts turned upward—open to rediscovering the Torah that hovers above us and all around us.











Sefirat HaOmer

Beginning on the second night of Passover we begin to count 49 days, 7 weeks until we reach the wheat harvest and Revelation at Mount Sinai on Shavuot.  We call this time the Sefirat HaOmer or  “Counting of the Omer.” The Omer is counted each night after the sun goes down- if one forgets, you can say the blessing all day until nightfall the next evening.


Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with
His commandments, and commanded us concerning the counting of the Omer.

We will be physically counting the omer in the lobby @Adas during evening Minyan. If you pass by you will see a jar with a stalk of wheat added each day in recognition of this waiting period. Stop for a moment, count, meditate, breathe- Take a moment to think about what you are longing for in this season. 

A Reflection on Sefirat HaOmer by Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt:


There is a different space of the journey of everyday, of marking time not through major accomplishments or milestones, but through the sun rising and setting of marking the passage of time, of hammering at something slowly, patiently over a contemplative period of time.  This is the Omer. 

We begin counting the Omer on the second night of Passover and we count every night until we get to 49 and arrive at the holiday of Shavuot- matan Torah (the giving of the Torah).  In ancient times the counting was a marking of the agricultural calendar- one would plant their wheat at Pesach and harvest it 7 weeks later.  Shavuot is one of the shelosh regalim, one of the 3 times of year people would make pilgrimage to the Temple (the others being Sukkot and Passover). On Shavuot first fruits were brought to the Temple as a way of giving thanks for the abundance that God had provided. 

We have become disconnected with the counting of the Omer because we are urban- we do not rely on the small plantings we make in our city gardens to eat, we do not watch an entire harvest spring from the ground and we do not have a Temple where we can offer our first fruits.

So the ritual of counting the Omer needs a reset.  A way of connection in the modern world to link the time between our liberation (Passover) to  our revelation and receiving of Torah (Shavuot).  The most remarkable days are those of the quiet rhythm of our lives.  Waking up without the rush- the steady movement forward- gentle and calm.  The time to dig our hands into our relationships, our work- the planting.  The time for reflection, noticing, and being- awaiting the harvest.  And finally the joy of our first fruits- which we can only gather after we have had the discipline of sowing, planting, and waiting.  Something will always emerge out of the ground. 

There is a reason we don’t recite shehecheyanu each night of the counting of the Omer. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak, the Kedushat Levi writes, “during the counting of the Omer, people are in anticipation of when the counting will be completed. They want the completion to arrive soon so they can experience closeness to the divine. Were they to have the capacity to complete the counting in an instant and be immediately able to enter into the closeness, how good and how pleasant it would be. This is why we do not recite shehecheyanu upon counting the Omer.”

The shehecheyanu would imply that we have arrived to a particular moment.  But this time is about the steady, continuous journey, not the arrival.  We’ll know when we have arrived and we’ll be ready then to offer our first fruits.  This year we will again mark the Omer at Adas with a display in the Quebec street entrance where we will add a jar and a wheat stalk every day.  With each jar we get closer.  Let’s use this time to linger, to notice, to plant, and to allow the Torah of our deepest selves to emerge.  I look forward to seeing you at Sinai.