Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 5/25

Image: NJOP

Today's Pause for Prayer:
    - begins with the connection between the Christian feast of Pentecost (this coming Sunday, May 28) and the Jewish feast of Shavuot (today, May 25 through May 27) 
    - includes today's prayer, by Alden Solovy
    - concludes with the beautiful and haunting musical compostion, "Shavuot" composed by Joshua Jacobson.

Consider these words from the first reading for Pentecost Sunday:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
It's easy for Christians to misunderstand what's meant here by the fulfillment of "the time for Pentecost."  The disciples of Jesus were in Jerusalem where they had gone at Jesus' instruction (Acts 1:4-5) to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jerusalem was mobbed because faithful Jews had come there to celebrate their Feast of Weeks or Shavuot, which falls 50 days (pente) after Passover. 

What is Shavuot?  The helpful site tells us:
Shavuot is a two-day holiday that commemorates the date when God gave the Torah (the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai over 3,000 years ago. Preceded by 49 days of counting in eager anticipation, Shavuot is celebrated through desisting from work, candle-lit dinners, staying up all night to study Torah, listening to the reading of the Ten Commandments in synagogue, enjoying dairy foods and other festivities.
The period from Passover to Shavuot is a time of great anticipation with the people ritually counting the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavuot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name Feast of Weeks.   Shavuot is also known as Pentecost, because it falls on the 50th day.

The date for the Christian feast of Pentecost is determined each year by the date of Easter, just as the date for Shavout is determined by the date of Passover .   Perhaps you remember that this year Passover and Easter occurred just days apart.  Thus, the celebration of Shavuot begins at sundown today (May 25 , through Saturday, May 27) with the Christian Pentecost falling on this Sunday, May 28.

Over at To Bend Light, Alden Solovy, offers us a collection of prayers and stories for Shavuot.  And here you'll find his weekly prayers for Counting of the Omer for the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot.

I'm pleased to share with you here one of Alden's prayers for Shavuot:

For the Joy of Learning

God, we give thanks for the joy of learning,
For the love of teaching and being taught,
For the gift that connects us to You,
To each other
And to Your Divine word.

Your wisdom is near to us,
In our hearts and in our mouths,
In our hands and in our lives,
So that we may teach it to each other
With humility and love.

Hear our prayer for those who teach and learn,
Bringing new light to Your people Israel.

Make the moments together a celebration.
Let heaven pour wisdom and strength through them
So that they overflow with enthusiasm and wonder
Drawing others into Your service.

So that when we witness the love of learning
Our souls turn back to You for wisdom.
Together, we offer this journey back to heaven,
And rejoice.

© 2011 Alden Solovy and To Bend Light, All rights reserved.

Shavuot by Joshua Jacobson 

The holiday of Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. This composition is an attempt to convey some of the mystery surrounding the theophany, the revelation of the Lord’s presence. The text begins and ends with a medieval Jewish hymn praising God and asking permission to chant the Decalogue. The middle section presents the first few words of each of the Ten Commandments. The composition is based on traditional Jewish chant. 

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