To understand the placement of Confirmation on the holiday of Shavuot, it is important to know the dual meaning of Shavuot. The Faith of Israel describes it in the following way: It was the first harvest festival of the year, and the people gave thanks for the yield of the land. Besides, it was observed in memory of the giving of the Law at Sinai, and the people gave thanks for the gift of the Law. Both meanings of the Feast of Shavuot are important. On the one hand, we commemorate Israel’s receiving of the Law. On the other, we give the first-fruits of our spiritual life to God. Therefore, we have set Shavuot aside as the day for Confirmation.
Our confirmands symbolically celebrate the two meanings of Shavuot, both through the Confirmation year as well as through leading the celebration of their Confirmation on Shavuot itself. By choosing to participate in Confirmation, young people symbolically receive the Torah at Sinai by studying Jewish tradition and declaring its place in their lives. They also symbolically offer their "first-fruits" by articulating their individual understandings of God and prayer, and choosing for themselves elements of Jewish practice that add meaning to their lives.
Shavuot, however, is not a holiday only for Confirmation students. The dual meanings of Shavuot issue an invitation to each one of us to consider, and confirm, the role that Judaism plays in our lives. We can each ask of ourselves, how do I receive Torah in my life? and, how do I offer the fruits of my spiritual life through prayer or action? Whether you celebrated your Confirmation or not, we can all see Shavuot as an opportunity to stand at Sinai and confirm our Jewish identities and commitments.
If we need further inspiration, May is a month full of celebrating exemplars of Jewish life in our community. At the 110th Anniversary Gala on May 5 we will celebrate the illustrious history of our community along with Cantor Helene Reps, Beverly Hoffmann and Amy Bass; three women who repeatedly confirm their Judaism through a diversity of volunteer activities, on-going study and religious expression. On May 11, we will bless our High School Graduates, young adults who have expressed their Judaism in the classroom, on the bimah, as role models to our children, in our youth groups and on the basketball court. And on May 19 and 20, as we celebrate the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai, we will be led in worship by our newest class of Confirmands.
May this month be a month when we are all inspired to stand again at Sinai and receive Torah for ourselves, each in our own way.
Rabbi Beth Nichols
For more information on celebrating Shavuot, click here!