A topic that we have been exploring with our students is the duality of themes for the holiday of Shavuot, which starts tonight. The holiday that is outlined in the Torah, and elaborated up on the Mishnah, is an agricultural one and centers around the designation of bikkurim, or first fruits. The Mishnah in particular explains an elaborate process for designating the fruits, the bringing of said fruits to Jerusalem, and then the ceremony that would take place as the fruits were transported into Jerusalem and to the Temple.
Following the destruction of the second Temple, Shavuot took on another meaning and significance. While we still count the Omer between Passover and Shavuot, the holiday also celebrates Matan Torah, or the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. For this reason, there is a practice of staying up very late at night and learning Torah. In recognition of simultaneous dissonance and room for connection between these two very different understandings of the holiday, I love staying up late and studying Mishnah Bikkurim. There is an incredibly performative and even theatrical element to the way that the Mishnah presents these customs and it is fascinating to study.
There is still one place, however, where a remnant of this ancient custom of bringing the bikkurim to Jerusalem is still present. Secular and religious kibbutzim alike, hold ceremonies and parades which not only celebrate the first fruits, but also new additions to the community, such as new tractors and machinery, new communal cars, and even babies who have been born in the last year! As a kibbutznik in my early 20s, I was moved by this creative way of connecting the past with the present and have always wanted to try to do a similar ceremony in a school setting.
This year, our wonderful faculty worked with our students to reflect on “firsts” and other accomplishments from this year. In an act of communal reflection, we joined together today to offer up our bikkurim and celebrate our achievements together. Each student’s reflection has been added to a mural that spells out the word “Shavuot”, literally weeks. Not only does this represent the weeks of this school year leading up to this point, but also the remaining weeks of the year, which will take us into the summer, the coming school year, and beyond. As we move into Shavuot, I want to invite us all to reflect on the “firsts” that we have accomplished this year and hope that we will have all sorts of opportunities for first and new experiences in the summer and the year to come!
Wishing you all and your loved ones a Chag Shavuot Sameach, a Shabbat Shalom, and a restful long weekend and Memorial Day,
Head of Schoo