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SHAVUOT MARKS A TIME OF CHANGE

Behzad Dayanim, Chief Learning Officer
June 7, 2019

As the holiday of Shavuot approaches, we commemorate a pivotal transitional moment in our Jewish history: the revelation at Mount Sinai, which led to the Jewish people receiving the Torah. Whether one accepts the story as expressed in the biblical text or not, this momentous event represented the Israelites’ “graduation” into Jewish peoplehood. Not unlike the various graduations and milestones we experience each year, Shavuot marks a time of change and a time of maturity.

As one united people, we famously stated, “Na’aseh v’nishma” (“we will do and we will listen”) – marking our full acceptance of the responsibilities inherent in this remarkable gift of the Torah. Some infer that this meant that we would not question what we were told and instead follow rules blindly. Although there are some who may willfully adopt this attitude (and I certainly do not fault them for their dedication), perhaps this perspective fails to reflect some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of our culture. Yes, we are one people, one nation with many shared core values; yet, we are also comprised of an incredibly diverse mosaic of individuals with unique ideas and attitudes. One might contend that these personal perspectives and approaches serve to strengthen our peoplehood, rather than diminish it.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could expect the people for whom we are responsible to simply accept our advice and follow our instructions? Perhaps in the short term. But I wonder whether this sort of unquestioned acquiescence might hamper one’s resilience, ability to challenge injustice or simply seek answers to ameliorate curiosity. Quite simply, we are the remarkable people we are and accomplish the incredible things we do because we refuse to simply accept everything we are told, or read or watch.

As a parent and an educator, I am all too familiar with this apparent conundrum. Although I appreciate when a student or child follows direction or advice, what truly excites me is the questioning, the wrestling, even the rousing discussion that sometimes arises. This engagement is when the true learning happens, often for the student and the teacher. After all, what do we really wish for our children? Especially in a time when apathy and inaction can lead to involuntary complicity to reprehensible acts, we have an obligation to help raise a resilient and engaged generation of individuals that shares a common desire to improve the world.

While our friends and relatives are experiencing their respective graduations and we approach this meaningful holiday of Shavuot, may we each recognize the importance of every person’s unique contributions as we celebrate being a part of one inclusive and welcoming community.

Chag sameach and Shabbat shalom! Thank you for being a meaningful part of our community.


This year, the Friedman Commission for Jewish Education (CJE) became a part of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. Together, Federation and CJE share a unified desire to elevate Jewish education and engagement throughout our community. As Federation’s center for Jewish learning, our goal is to create and support programs throughout the community, serve as an expert resource, and provide unique opportunities for direct engagement. We invite you to engage in Jewish life and learning here in the Palm Beaches, and look forward to helping you navigate your unique Jewish journey.

To find out more, visit jewishpalmbeach.org/cje.