Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shavuot-- aka, the holiday that vegetarians and those that do not like to be meat appreciate

Shavuot is the holiday that comes at the end of the counting of the Omer. People stay up all night learning and pray as early as possible. And in Jerusalem many people walk to the Kotel, the Western Wall, to pray there. That custom comes from a few sources, one being that once the Old City and the Western Wall were were liberated, Shavuot was the first time we were able to go there, and there is also a concept of making a pilgrimage to the Temple 3 times a year (Pesach/Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot). Between these two, it's become a tradition on Shavuot to go to the Kotel on Shavuot morning after staying up (or not) learning. My favorite part of Shavuot morning is after davening. At the Kotel plaza, there are people making kiddush and giving out small packages of food (muffins/cake, a drink, etc.). And you leave the Kotel, by all the construction (ok, maybe less so now) and the beginning of Yafo, there is also-- you guessed it-- someone (a few someones) making kiddush and giving out cake and stuff. This country is amazing in the way that people take care of each other and how on major event days, someones are looking out for the rest of the population somehow.

Another tradition is eating dairy, for many reasons (see the link for Shavuot above). So I made lots of dairy. I ended making dinner last minute, so I made lots of dairy. Aside from challah (which is not dairy and I love to make), I made a dairyfest: cinnamon cheesecake with nutmeg in the crust, lasagna, a dairy noodle kugel, and pizza. And then I went to lunch by a friend of a friend and-- surprise! Dairy! I like dairy. Dairy makes me happy. Except when I'm meat (hence the reason I don't like eating meat).

Usually (like I've been here so long...well, usually what I do when I'm in Israel-put it that way; I've been here for 3 Shavuots) I stay up all night, go to the Kotel, and then go back to wherever I'm staying and SLEEP. This year I had a friend over and she didn't feel great, so we stayed home. I stayed up most of the night and learned, davened, then went to sleep until the afternoon. In the afternoon we went to a NBN unofficially singles event ("This event is for singles and young couples in their 20’s & 30’s", which means it's a singles event). On one hand, it's another singles event. On the other hand, I see a whole bunch of people at once and then I'm "yotze" for a whole year. That's convenient.

What I used to do for Shavuot was determined by where I was. If I was upstate, after we finished dinner I would go down the hill (with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and enough other candy and cheese balls to last through the night, sit at the back of the nightclub (the nightclub is really an auditorium-like space with a stage that serves as the shul for the main minyan on Shabbos in the summer) and learn with Chari and maybe a few others, take plenty of breaks in the middle, pass out for a little while on the benches, get up, then daven and go back up the hill and sleep. If I was by a friend's, we would usually go to her shul, learn, eat, daven, then go back to her house and sleep until the afternoon. And then in both scenarios, have a regular second dag of Yom Tov.

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