As a natural born night owl (I was probably one of a few 8 year olds who watched the 10 o’clock news regularly), you’d think that the tikkun leil Shavuot, or the tradition of staying up all night studying on the evening before Shavuot, would have been my Jewish event. In fact, it’s only really been in the last three years that I’ve had a real appreciation for what it could be.
Every year, they have a multi-denominational tikkun leil shavuot, every year the same yet different. Being later in the spring or early summer, the holiday doesn’t start until 8 or 9pm and so the night starts late to begin with. Classes continue until about 4 a.m. at which point the group splits to egalitarian and Orthodox. The Egalitarian minyan prays by the lake, and the Orthodox minyan goes back to their synagogue, since the actual event doesn’t take place there.
I can honestly say that this event is one of my favorite things that this community does. Not only is there a full schedule of programming almost right through the night (the programming at 3AM is a lot smaller, since the group is a lot smaller) but then in the morning, we enjoy the hush of the beginning of the day.
Last year, I joined the egalitarian minyan at the lake in the morning. We walked for quite a while as a group, dragging prayerbooks and tallitot (prayer shawls) with us, but it didn’t matter. We arrived just as it was started to really get light enough to see outside, and so we started to pray. I must admit that I really did not get a lot of formal praying done. I have never really been an inattentive participant in prayer, but I could not force myself to look down.
I had the glory of the world spread out before me. The weather was perfect – not a breath of air disturbing the lake, the sun rising without a cloud in the sky. As the beautiful orange orb lifted itself out of the water, the fish were jumping and making ripples in the lake. I could not look down at the printed words in front of me. Even if it were the less familiar Shavuot prayers, I could not look down and miss this. I could feel the true gratitude and joy well up inside of me, and even though I wasn’t praying with the words, I was doing the best I could to convey the amazing awesomeness in front of me, willing God to understand what I was seeing and my feelings as the best prayer I could give.
After the morning prayers, we returned back to the sanctuary to read the Torah scroll. The surroundings were less inspiring, and we were all tired in body by that point, after having been awake for nearly 24 hours. However, I tried to carry that spirit with me for the duration of the prayer, and the duration of the day. This year, maybe we won’t get perfect weather, or have the very real reminder of how beautiful this world is However, as I celebrate my birthday on the second day of Shavuot, I’m going to remember that feeling every year.