This story originally appeared on My Jewish Learning.
(JTA) — The Shavuot holiday that we observed last month commemorates two different kinds of harvests. Originally an agricultural festival, Shavuot marked the culmination of the wheat harvest in the ancient land of Israel. Only later did the rabbis layer on the receiving of the Torah to the holiday. Just as we celebrate the bounty of the land, we celebrate the bounty of Torah — the sustenance that feeds our hearts and nourishes our souls.
In ancient days, as the wheat blossomed in its golden fullness, the sheaves would be gathered into bundles and waved in celebration of what had been tended in the fields. Similarly, the celebration of revelation is a kind of harvest as well. All year we’ve studied and contemplated the Torah, turning over ideas to see how they speak to the conditions of our lives right now. Revelation is thus not a disembodied, momentary insight, but rather the bounty of this particular year’s harvest of insight. Both kinds of kernels — of grain and Torah understanding — need to be nurtured and processed to be useful.
Shavuot marks not only the culmination of these processes, but new beginnings as well. In Exodus, Shavuot is referred to as the feast of the bikkurim, the first fruits that appear on trees in the springtime. According to Deuteronomy 26:2, these first barely ripe fruits must be offered to God. Much like the new learning birthing with us, we offer these early insights to God to be guided in what they need to come into their full, juicy sweetness.
Shavuot starts the season of sweet sugars that will delight our tongues and decadently run down our chins; that we will feed to children eager for their reds, purples, blues and pinks bursting with deliciousness in the summer sunlight; that we will arrange artfully on platters and transform into pastries and pies to bring to neighbors and loved ones in friendship and with care. Like the fruit of the tree, the revelations that come to us on Shavuot are meant to be nourishing, sweet and shared.
First fruits — those gems of juice and succulence that we hold in our hands — are brought into being through the intimacy and mutuality of sunlight and soil, pollinator and pollen, patience and anticipation, cultivation and surrender. Cells transform and combine, assembling themselves together into figs and apples and berries.
On Shavuot, we too assemble, the many parts of our people coming together as one. When the Israelites prepared to receive at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Torah tells us that they entered the wilderness vayichan sham— and encamped there. The biblical commentator Rashi asks why this verb, vayichan, is written in the singular. He answers: As one person with one heart the people camped at the base of the mountain. To prepare for revelation is to assemble ourselves from many diverse spaces and places and become one, at least for a moment.
Plant, animal, insect and fungal worlds uniting, intertwining for weeks, months and even years to become one fruit. On Shavuot, the fruiting body of their tangled web of co-creation recalls for us the many intertwining systems of life and connection that constitute who we are, individually and collectively, in all our dazzling, fruity, sweet magnificence. So too does Torah yield a particular kind of sweetness when we celebrate our holy entanglement as one.
The wheat harvest reminds us where we’ve been, what we’ve been counting towards and waiting for. It blesses us with a coming to completion. The first fruits remind us of the sweetness that is just beginning, tantalizing our tongues for the very first time, whetting our appetite for more.
And so, as we return from this holiday of revelation, we ask: What is it that we’ve been tending that we are now harvesting? What joy and sweetness are we just coming to know? And what disparate parts of who we are — individually and collectively — might we join together as one so that the sweet knowing of our connection can find voice?
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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.
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.”
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.)
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.
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