Living & Growing: Celebrating Shavuot

Chava Lee, executive eirector of the Gastineau Humane Society, looks in on the cats in the country room on Monday. Lee and others with be working on Christmas to take care of the animals at the shelter.

On June 4, Jews around the world will celebrate Shavuot. Shavuot is the second of three major holidays that have historical significance and revolve around agriculture. The first is Passover, followed by Shavuot, and the third is Sukkot. Agriculturally, this time signifies when the first fruits are harvested. Historically, Shavuot commemorates the day G-d gave the Torah to the Israelites on Mount Sinai.

The date of Shavuot is exactly seven weeks after Passover. The time between the two holidays is referred to as the counting of the weeks.

“You shall count for yourselves -- from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days... You shall convoke on this very day — there shall be a holy convocation for yourselves — you shall do no laborious work; it is an eternal decree in your dwelling places for your generations.” (Leviticus 21:15-16, 21) The counting is seen as weeks of anticipation between the exile from Egypt commemorated by Passover and the giving of the Torah seven weeks later signifying the Jewish peoples commitment to G-d.

But why is this important to us today? We are no longer an agrarian society. Telling us not to work may cause a huge financial burden. Staying up all night on the first night, eating only certain foods, and participating in other activities may be out of our reach for a variety of reasons. We remember and participate for more than tradition. We do it to recommit ourselves to the Torah. Following the precepts of the Torah takes dedication and commitment. It takes a willingness to become a better person and to dedicate our lives to that end. It is not easy and it is not meant to be easy. I’m not sure if it is even possible to understand in a lifetime all the Torah has to offer. But it is this yearly recommitment that demands that we take a moment out of our busy lives to reflect on all that has been given to us.

Whether you are participating in a Shavuot celebration, or just out taking a walk, take a moment and reflect on all you are given and all you have. We need to be a bit more like the ancient Israelites and be joyful and look forward in anticipation. We need to think of (and thank) the people who prepare the fields, plant the seeds and then harvest the foods we eat. And from there we need to thank all of those who get the food to us and prepare it for us to eat, And of course we have to thank G-d for entrusting us with the Torah and all of the responsibility and wonder that comes with that. We are thankful for the harvest. We are grateful and humbled to be given the Torah. And we are joyful to be alive because just being alive is a blessing that too many are not able to share with us.

• Chava Lee is a member of the Jewish Community of Juneau.


Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:39

Communications scholarship open

Alaska Professional Communicators are offering two $1,000 scholarships for students planning a career in communications and majoring in any phase of public communications, including public relations, advertising, radio-television, video and print.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:39

Thank you from Big Brothers Big Sisters

Thanks to the City and Borough of Juneau tax revenue and the CBJ Activities Grant, five big and little matches in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program enjoyed an afternoon of free skating at the Treadwell Ice Arena!

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:38

Thank you from the American Red Cross of Alaska

On Feb. 17, 2017 we celebrated our 100-year anniversary as the American Red Cross of Alaska. It was very important to us to kick-off the year in Juneau as the original Red Cross of Alaska Charter was in Juneau. We are so happy we did! We have so many people to thank for making the evening not only fun, but heart-warming as well. We first have to thank the volunteers that worked so hard. Thank you to Buddy Custard, board member extraordinaire, for all of your guidance, humor, and hard work. Thank you Teresa Maria Abella for asking Senator Egan to be our Honorary Chair, for plastering the town with posters, for your fundraising efforts, your excitement, your photography, and just in general for being such a blessing to the Red Cross team. Senator Egan and Jesse Keihl, what can we say? You were amazing and helpful and patient. I will miss our meetings and the laughter that always ensued. We would be very remiss if we did not thank Governor Walker for giving us your time and for sharing your Red Cross story. Your commitment and support are deeply appreciated and we were touched beyond measure by your decision to attend and speak at our celebration. Lt. Governor Mallott and Mrs. Mallott, thank you for attending and supporting our mission. You bring such a sense of calm and grace wherever you go, we are humbled that you shared that with us. Last, but most definitely not least, we must thank all of our volunteers. The American Red Cross is a volunteer-run organization with only 14 staff for the entire state of Alaska. We could not help the hundreds of Alaskans that we do without volunteers. Our volunteers are the ones that get up at 2 a.m. when we receive a call about a house fire. They leave their homes and families to help others if there is a large disaster either in Alaska or in some other part of the country. I have said it many times, and will continue to say it: Red Cross volunteers are the best in the world. They are selfless, kind, generous people who only want to help. For this celebration there are a few in particular we need to thank: Karen Petersen, Peter Chaille, June Johnson, Joyce Levine, Michelle Brown, Carolyn and Dan Garcia, Chip Wagoner, Rebecca Trude, Rick Janelle, Patricia and Kyle Lamson, Bob Bassett, and T Iputi! Thank you Juneau and Southeast Alaska for supporting the American Red Cross of Alaska’s first 100 years; we look forward to the next 100!

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 08:38

Planetarium presents ‘Aurora’

The Marie Drake Planetarium will present “Aurora” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, followed by “The Sky Tonight” on the Spitz projector. The event is free and for all ages.

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