THE DYNAMICS OF SHAVUOT IN THE OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM
BY ARIELLA BRACHA WALDINGER
I could never have imagined the excitement, energy and Torah learning that would present itself to me during the celebration of Shavuot, “The Festival of the Giving of the Torah,” in the Old city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is our ETERNAL CAPITAL and the location of the Temple Mount where the Holy Temples stood until their destruction. The visual antiquities and archaeological remnants in the Jewish Quarter of the Old city carry you easily to the ancient past of Jerusalem. One cannot help but feel her significance in a very deep way as you walk her courtyards and alleyways and contemplate the history of our People, from the ancient past to the present. Spiritual vibrations and echoes of the past hold you in their embrace and energize your heart and soul.
Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals when Jews are commanded to go up to Jerusalem. As new residents of the Holy City celebrating Shavuot for the first time in the Holy Land, our entire holiday perspective took on a new and deeper meaning. The word dynamic is defined as continuous change, activity or movement marked by intensity and vigor. This truly defined what was taking place in homes, yeshivot and seminaries throughout the Old city and the Holy Land. Dynamic also means forceful and powerfully energetic and this aspect manifested itself in exciting ways both in preparation for the holiday and during the holiday. Pre-Shavuot grocery shopping was an adventure of sounds and aromas. The smell of fresh baked dairy pastries wafting out of the bakeries created a delicious heavenly aroma. My senses came alive on every level, reveling in the synergy of our nation in our Land. Dynamic also means a force or power related to motion and producing change. These aspects were brought out in the desire of the Klal to receive the Torah anew as the Torah itself with all its inherent beauty and wisdom produces change and causes great inner movement.
These definitions of the word dynamic also held true regarding a force which energetically compelled great movement in the environs of the Old City as intense Torah learning literally vibrated through the walls. There is a tradition, on the night of Shavuot, to stay awake all night and study Torah. Jews from both the Old City and neighboring towns arrived at the Kotel (The Western Wall) en masse to greet the Divine Presence at the emergence of the holiday to celebrate its beauty, majesty and power. The dynamics of the Klal created an intensity and renewed vigor that permeated the area and echoed with joy throughout the city, spreading its light throughout the Holy Land. During the entire night, massive crowds of Jews in the tens of thousands walked from all parts of Jerusalem to partake in the learning that was pouring out of Yeshivot, seminaries, and homes. The sweet sounds of Torah learning and impassioned song filled the night air with the fragrance of sweet incense like a devotional offering. All-night classes kept Jews moving excitedly from one location to another. Some devoted teachers walked for 40 minutes into the Old City to give a Torah class. Tea, coffee and enlivening Torah helped keep us awake. From the looks of the large crowds of people, one would imagine that a big party was going on and in fact that was true. It was a celebration on the grandest scale as we re-accepted the Torah with all its spiritual emanations flowing from the time spiral of Sinai into the spiritual epicenter of the universe….Jerusalem and Har HaBayit…the Temple Mount. With new Torah lenses, one could perceive the Divine, as a spirit of new life vibrated energetically throughout the Old City and the world at large.
As the night began to hint of daylight’s arrival, throngs of additional Jews came to be a part of sunrise prayers at the Kotel (The Western Wall). As the light began to illuminate the sky at daybreak in Jerusalem, the City of G-d, I felt as if I had entered a new dimension of my life as a Jew. My soul was filled to the brim not only with my Torah acquisitions but with the DYNAMIC forces of all the Jews in the Land re-experiencing the remarkable re- discovery of our soul destiny. We were each embracing our true path to be a light unto the nations.
Sated with the goodness of celebrating Shavuot in G-d’s courtyard and dwelling in His chosen land, I was aroused to draw close to G-d and our nation in a way I had never done before. From the deepest recesses of my soul, I felt reborn and spiritually rejuvenated. What more can I say? I felt the light of Torah burst forth around me and I planned to catch its ray and bask in its splendor. You can too! It’s all here waiting for you both in the holiday itself and especially in the Land.
Wishing all of Am Yisrael the deepest connection with all your soul powers as G-d, Himself invites us to adorn ourselves with the Yoke of Torah and wear it like a bejeweled necklace shining all its radiance into our lives and the world.
With love and Blessings, Ariella Bracha