Our Canary Wharf Multifaith Chaplaincy team were invited by Clifford Chance to attend their pre-Shavuot celebrations held. It is an annual event that I really look forward to as I believe it is a very special event to which old people from a number of Jewish care homes are treated to a delicious lunch and cheesecakes.
A choir from a Jewish school provided entertainment with juggling acts and also singing religious songs led by their enthusiastic and energetic choir master. It was lovely talking to the elderly guests, one of whom was a holocaust survivor. A Jewish man told me in a very moving way about how his wife had recently undergone heart surgery carried out by a Muslim surgeon. “He saved her life!” – said the grateful old man.
One conversation after another was about the need for everyone to get along and live happily together in peace and harmony. Dialogue, they said was key and that we do not talk to each other enough. Those who had seen me there last year expressed delight at seeing me again and wished for me to join them again next year.
Shavuot: The Wheat Harvest and Divine Revelation
Shavuot is a Jewish festival which lasts for two days in the diaspora and commemorates both the wheat harvest in Israel and the giving of the Torah by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. The name ‘Shavuot’ means ‘weeks’ as the Torah commands that the festival takes place seven weeks after the second day of Passover. The English name is Pentecost, derived from the Greek word meaning ‘the fiftieth day’.
One of the traditions on Shavuot which dates back several hundreds of years is to eat milk based products, especially cheesecake. There are several reasons given. In the Song of Songs, King Solomon compares the Torah to milk when he writes “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under Your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Our sages explain that just as the mother’s milk nourishes the baby, so too God’s wisdom which was revealed at Mount Sinai to Moses on Shavuot, nourishes the soul.