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Concluding Shavuot

Celebrating our Jewish mixed multitude: Closing Rituals

Rabbi Liz’s kavanot from Erev Shavuot 5781 – A service of healing and remembrance 

May 16, 2021

Kavanah for Candle lighting

Jewish festival days begin at twilight, ushering us into a night that we hope and pray brings us into morning renewed.

Twilight is, by definition, liminal, transitional. We have not yet left one space and we have not yet arrived into the new one.

All the possibilities of the time ahead are there to be filled with what we have gleaned from the times before. 

This holiday of Shavuot is set to begin with so much unsettled in the world, old conflicts exploding, ongoing pandemics raging, systemic injustice prevailing. How are we to complete our time of counting?

From a kavanah for this erev Shavuot by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone:

"Standing again at Sinai, at the foot of the mountain this year means to ground ourselves on this good earth, and recommit to our people's highest principles, and to the Torah's unchanging values of tzedek, justice and fairness, tzelem Elohim, the inviolable dignity of all human beings, and emunah, faith, that our prayers, study, and good acts truly matter, have weight, and will have a ripple effect for good."

So let’s light our way into Shavuot, as this rich day of learning comes to a close, and the holiday begins in the spirit of transformative healing and remembrance.

As we light our memorial candles may we spark resistance. As we bless our festival candles may we extend the hope and light and discoveries and insights and flavours and challenges of this day with our hope that torah orah, the light of Torah shared beyahad (together) illuminates the path of justice, joy, and healing.                 

Reflection on Healing

Healing is a lifelong process. It is a mending of the separation between us and the Divine Presence, as well as ourselves and others. When we invoke healing, we reach beyond ourselves, and through doing so, also commit to engage in the healing or repair of the world.

In Psalm 30, offered daily following the morning blessings, we find these phrases:

shivvati elekha vatirpa’eni

(I cried out to you and you healed me) 

ba’erev yalin bekhi, velaboker rina

(in the evening, I lay down in tears, yet in the morning awoke to joy)

Our dimmed eventides do lead to the illumination of daytimes.

Our crying out can draw in support, lead to wholeness, and create opportunity to nurture lifelong practices of refu’ah v’ tikkun, healing and repair.

Many questions arise as we strive to heal ourselves, our community, and the community at large from the insidiousness of racism, from the horrible myths that serve to divide human from human in order to subjugate.

There are no comfortable answers to those questions. We take up the cry that Moshe offered to heal his sister who had called him out for marrying a Cushite, and make our healing chant part of our calling in, pouring into it an intention to transform ourselves from healing callers to healing actors.

El na refana la . . . 

Reflection on Remembrance

When we remember, at memorial gatherings, we invoke their names. Some communities have walls, with lights that are turned on at the traditional four times a year of yizkor services, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot.

Say their names . . .

Joyce Etchequan.

Adbirahman Abdi.

Colson Boushey.

Regis Korchinsky-Paquet.

Sammy Yatim.

Chantel Moore.

Ejaz Ahmed Choudry.

Andrew Loku.

Struck down by police in uniform, or by citizens. They are Black, Indigenous, of African, or Middle Eastern, or South Asian descent. In this country, as in others, the colour of their skin was entered into some perpetual registry as a weapon.

A Kaddish for Black Lives posted by the Jewish Multiracial Network for Juneteenth observances last summer embeds this knowledge into the heart of its text:

Black lives have been lost to the violence of the vigilante, the cruelty of the marketplace, and the silence of the comfortable

We understand that black lives are sacred, inherently valuable, and irreplaceable. We know that to oppress the body of the human is to break the heart of the divine.

I add to my kavanah to honour my own beloveds whose death I mourn for Yizkor moments, my parents, and intention to “bind up the wounds, to heal the shattered hearts, to break the yoke of oppression.”

Concluding Shavuot

We began with a melody set to a phrase in Psalm 147 – calling to the one who counts each star by name to heal the brokenhearted.

Harofey lishvurey lev umchabesh le’atzvotam

Moneh mispar lekokhavim lekhulam shemot yikra

Healer of the brokenhearted and tender of our wounds

You account for every star and call each one by name

Music: Rena Branson; sung with Batya Levine

We’ll close with another version of the same passage, an inspiring vocal, instrumental and dance setting to lift our hearts at the close of this heart-opening, inspiring day.


Harofey lishvurey lev umchabesh le’atzvotam

Moneh mispar lekokhavim lekhulam shemot yikra

May of the light of the stars heal the wounds in our hearts

Translation: Solomon Hoffman

Thu, 2 December 2021