Shavuot in Jerusalem is truly magical. On this important holiday, Jews commemorate the time in ancient days when the ‘first fruits’ were harvested and brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering to God. It is also a celebration of the glorious day when God gave us the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) on Mount Sinai.
While Shavuot is special to Jews all over the world, I must say that having the blessing of celebrating the holiday in Jerusalem is beyond compare! Jewish holidays allow us to take a break from our daily cares and worries and provide time for introspection. At our house, we welcome family members from all over the country for dinner. The mood is one of gratitude to God for giving us the most precious gift possible - the Bible.
Jewish tradition holds that the Torah was received in the morning. Therefore, on Shavuot, it has become the custom to stay up all night learning and praying in anticipation of the big event. Many people flock from all over Israel to study Torah at the Western Wall throughout the night. Everyone wants to get a little closer to God's presence, just like in biblical times when Jewish people were commanded to ascend to the Temple three times a year and bring a holy sacrifice. One of those times was Shavuot.
I reflect how Israel today faces many challenges, just as it did in biblical times, and how the secret to our getting through those challenges is always the same - to trust in God, to ask Him for guidance, and to listen for His voice. You, too, have heard God's voice - and you have responded by generously helping His people in Israel and around the world. I feel I can truly say that, thanks to your support of Israelis and the Jewish people, more prayers of thanksgiving are raised to God this Shavuot than ever before. On behalf of all of us, thank you!