Shavuot Traditions – Cheesecake And All-Night Study

Members of the Stange family hold a hand-written Torah scroll and a toy stuffed Torah. Photo Courtesy Los Alamos Jewish Center

Los Alamos Jewish Center

Were one to compile a list of favorite college experiences, pulling an all-nighter would probably not emerge at the top!  Yet the Jewish people incorporated just such an experience into our annual calendar as part of the observance of a holiday called Shavuot, literally weeks.  The Jewish holiday of Passover, which was observed in April, celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery.   According to the Torah or Five Books of Moses, the first part of the Jewish Bible, that liberation was followed by the revelation at Sinai.  The anniversary of the revelation is celebrated seven full weeks after Passover (hence the name Shavuot), and a tradition developed to stay up all night studying Jewish texts as we usher in the holiday.  (According to rabbinic teachings, the thunder and lightning on the morning of the revelation at Sinai were needed to awaken the people, and Jews now stay awake all night to show that we don’t need that wake-up call anymore.  Perhaps somewhat illogical, but such is the tradition!)  An additional legend has it that the heavens open up precisely at midnight on Shavuot to accept our wishes and prayers.

The Los Alamos Jewish Center will be holding an evening Shavuot event on Thursday, May 25 beginning at 6:30 PM with a dairy dinner (RSVP required to Traditional Shavuot foods are dairy items, such as cheese blintzes and cheesecake. Following dinner, we’ll sing some songs, read some stories, and reflect on the meaning of revelation today. It is traditional to read the Book of Ruth. Participants are also encouraged to bring a Jewish topic of interest for discussion.  Those who make it to midnight will have the opportunity to test the efficacy of the legend about the heavens as we end the event.

The Los Alamos Jewish Center is located at 2400 Canyon Road. For more information about the Jewish Center: or For more information about Rabbi Jack: or