This is the time of year I find myself counting. I’m counting the days left of school. Some things are coming to an end and other things are just about to begin. I am counting down the days until camp starts. And I’m counting the Omer – the days between Passover and Shavuot, when we mark the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
I couldn’t help but think of the connections between Shavuot and this time of year for me and maybe other teenagers too.
Staying up all night studying: There is a modern tradition to participate in a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, where participants study Jewish texts all night in preparation to accept the Torah the next morning. This served to contrast our ancestors at Sinai who were scared to receive the Torah showing how we, as a Jewish nation, are ready to accept the Torah’s values today. As high school students, staying up all night studying for the upcoming test is a typical occurrence. However, revamping of our day to day affairs of going to sleep late because of our academic studies with all night learning Torah emphasizes the holiness of receiving the Torah, as it is a special moment that deserves a whole night’s worth of preparation.
Rules: The Ten Commandments were some of the very first rules that God gave to the Israelites. In our world today, we are constantly being held accountable to moral standards. This idea of structure that was introduced then is applicable today, because as teens, we find ourselves forced to comply with our superior’s authority. Specifically, one of the commandments states that we must obey our parents. The simplicity of this law’s prepossessing connotations illustrates our clear responsibility to obey, even when the law seems questionable to us. Though teens begin to build their own personal identities, the Ten Commandments remind us how we too are held to a high moral standard.
Megillat Ruth: On Shavuot, the reading of the Book of Ruth is added to the service. Though the story of Ruth does have complex and inspiring morals, some see this as just an additional responsibility to fulfill. As teens, we must remember that throughout life there will always be additional responsibilities to take on. We too can be inspired by the example of Ruth whose generosity and kindness to Naomi is admirable.
Rewards for Positive Actions: Shavuot is most commonly known as the anniversary of the acceptance of the Torah, but in historic times, Jews brought their first fruits to the Temple—the rewards of their labor. Our work is also recompressed. We gain the satisfaction of the completion of the task, which results in receiving positive feedback, improved grades, and sometimes a vacation.
I look forward to this Shavuot with these connections to my own life in mind. While sometimes Jewish law does seem as if it has direct connections to teens, we are able to draw parallels to some of the simplest aspects of our lives, which in turn creates a deeper insight into the meaning of the holiday and our history as a nation.
Sarah Horvath is a sophomore at Abraham Joshua Heschel High School in Manhattan.