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Staying up all night on Shavuot is about going all in



This story originally appeared on My Jewish Learning.

(JTA) — The holiday of Shavuot, which begins at sundown this year on Thursday, May 25, is understood by Jewish tradition to be the time when God gave the Israelites the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is traditionally celebrated with dairy foods and intensive Torah study, with some staying up all night to learn (a practice likely fueled by the advent of coffee in the 16th century). These all-night study sessions, known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot, are held by Jewish communities of different denominations and geographies and are the only widely observed Jewish ritual involving staying up all night.

Though the custom is widespread, there are few classical sources to support it. So why do we do it?

On its face, the connection is obvious. Shavuot celebrates receiving the Torah, so of course we would honor Shavuot with abundant Torah study. But upon reflection, this reason seems less than convincing. How high is the quality of Torah study in the middle of the night? As the hours tick by, is anyone even paying attention to the teacher? Many people load up on sugar and caffeine, perhaps ill-advisedly, just to get through it. This wouldn’t seem like the best way to pay tribute to Torah.

A more common explanation is that Tikkun Leil Shavuot is precisely that — a tikkun (literally “rectification”) for what went wrong on that original Shavuot at Sinai. The Israelites, according to this theory, slept in on the day they were meant to receive the Torah. In a sort of penance for that failing, we make sure not to miss Shavuot morning by pulling an all-nighter the night before.

But this seems potentially counterproductive. If you’re worried about sleeping in and missing a morning meeting, staying up all night doesn’t quite do the trick. It’s overkill, and may actually undermine your goal. You might manage to be physically where you need to be, but at the cost of any sort of mental presence. What is the value of being present for the giving of the Torah if you’re incapacitated from sleep deprivation?

I would like to suggest an alternate explanation, one focused less on learning and preparedness and more on the experience of receiving the Torah. The goal of Shavuot night is not Torah learning — one can study Torah any day of the year. The goal is to experience something of the radical encounter with God at Sinai.

In the book of Exodus, we find this description of what transpired as God descended on the mountain:

And the entire people saw the thunder and lightning and the sound of the shofar and the mountain in smoke. The nation saw, they trembled with fear, and they stayed at a distance. They said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

In the Torah’s telling, the encounter with God was an immersive experience. As if attending a concert with overwhelming audiovisual components, the people are at first entranced and then overwhelmed by what they’re experiencing, backtracking in fear. They are so overpowered they are unable to distinguish between the senses — hence  they “saw” the “sound of the shofar.” Overawed by all of this, they beg off, asking to have Moses serve as an intermediary rather than encounter God directly again.

This should not be surprising — it makes sense that an encounter with God should be overwhelming, an experience that scrambles the senses and shifts one’s consciousness. And that’s what we’re looking for on Shavuot. Tikkun Leil Shavuot isn’t primarily an opportunity to learn, nor a chance to fix some millennia-old mishap. It is meant precisely to simulate that total immersive experience.

We do that by occupying ourselves entirely with Torah — and nothing else (OK, maybe some cheesecake too). We learn until it hurts, going at it until we just can’t anymore. Depriving ourselves of sleep brings our bodies into the experience and inevitably effects a shift in consciousness. Taken together, this practice creates an intense experience, an all-encompassing engagement with God and Torah — just as the Israelites experienced at Mount Sinai.

Yes, you might have a headache in the morning, but some hangovers are worth it.

The post Staying up all night on Shavuot is about going all in appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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