Continued from Weekly Reflections
For nearly 1000 years, the Temple stood as the central location for each of the Harvest Festivals (which included Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot), but this all changed with the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE by the Romans. Without the Temple in Jerusalem, the primary connection to the land became a secondary consideration.
In a state of diaspora from the land of Israel and no place to offer their sacrifices to God, the Jewish people needed a completely new model for observance. In response to their new realities in exile, the rabbis of the first century CE were faced with a two-fold challenge. They now had a holiday (Shavuot) without a ritual, and they had an event (the giving of Torah at Sinai) without a holiday.
It may be difficult to imagine; but the Torah does not give a specific date for the Giving of Torah at Sinai was never coupled with a specific date. The only thing we do know is that, according to the Torah, we are taught that revelation occurs in the third month after the Exodus from Egypt. Behold! A connection!!
This connection was an easy one for the rabbis, for in the Book of Exodus, the Torah also teaches us that the Summer Harvest was to be observed 49 days after Passover. This gave the rabbis a perfect way to reinvented and re-contextualized the customs associated with Shavuot.
Therefore, for the past 2000 years, Shavuot has been associated with Revelation. In this way, our sages were able to preserve the values and teachings of our heritage and faith after the destruction of the Temple. This is our challenge in every generation – how to keep our faith alive in an ever-changing world.