Shuvoo Sights & Sites
Journeys Through Photo & Word
People & Places from the Past and the Present by Ashirah Yosefah
Issue No. 4, June 8th, 2006
Sights & Sounds from Shavuot 2006
There are times when I so wish that using a camera were permitted on our holy holidays, but it is not, so I will try to recreate in words the amazing vistas that met the eyes of those celebrating Shavuot last week in Jerusalem, especially those of us who participated in the Tikkun Leil Shavuot Torah studies, staying awake until the mid-morning hours on Shavuot day. The pictures which follow will offer you images to feed your imagination as you transform them in your mind to enhance these tales of Shavuot a week ago.
A Torah study inside the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron …
a daily occurrence there,
as it was on Leil Shavuot. In
the yards outside some synagogues were set up with tables and
night lighting as men studied Torah throughout the night.
A beautiful sight for those walking by.
(© Ashirah Yosefah Photo).
After davening, everyone headed off to transform tables into altars as we shared the first meal of Shavuot with family and friends. Dairy foods and D’var Torah were abundant at the tables and the home where I was enjoying the meal was bedecked with lavish branches of flowers and greenery everywhere. The food, conversation and songs were so plentiful that it was just shy of midnight when we said the Birkat haMazon and headed off to our respective Torah study destinations. Most of us at the table were already running 30 to 60 minutes late for our first shiur (class)!
this gate was filled with a continual stream of people heading to
Torah studies and making their way to the Kotel
(© Ashirah Yosefah Photo)
Walking from Baka to Katamon, I found the streets bustling with people making their way, full and happy, to shiurim. We had not been the only ones to run a bit late at dinner. Many of us had elaborate itineraries of classes lined up for the night … a spiritual, intellectual and physical marathon of sorts as we walked from one location to the next. By 2:30am, I was settled into my third shiur of the evening in a room packed to overflowing, literally, with a couple dozen people sitting in the stairwell outside the apartment straining to hear the words of our teacher. Looking about, my eyelids were not the only ones beginning to droop. This next hour would be the most difficult, a ‘second wind’ would follow it, but as I scanned the room several heads were nodding despite the abundance of high-carb chocolate cakes and sweets being passed around the room. Nonetheless, we all fought to stay awake, with the exception of a few multi-second vertical naps. Our teacher was excellent and we did not want to let her down or miss anything she said.
At 3:40 am, we spilled out into the cool night air. Another shiur was about to begin, but my friend and I were joining other friends who were planning to celebrate their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah down at the Kotel as Shavuot dawn arrived. Guests made their way to their home and powered up on cookies and Turkish coffee as the excitement rose. It was time to head to the Kotel!
This photo was taken by day last year, but on Shavuot,
as dawn drew near, rivers of people were streaming
up the walking path that traverses this hill leading
To reach the Kotel to daven the morning prayers
and hear the reading of Megillat Ruth.
(© Ashirah Yosefah Photo)
fail any attempt to describe the feeling one gets as they walk through the
through the Jewish Quarter of the
This amazing photo of
daybreak over the
circulated over the internet a few months ago. On Shavuot,
as the sun crested the
Kotel Courtyard was a solid carpet of swirling human
pools of black and white as people davened, most
of whom had spent the night studying Torah.
began around 5:00 am and continued until around 8:30 am, when a glance below
from our balcony revealed spaces of stone now visible amidst the crowd as happy
Shavuot celebrants made their way home to either meals or sleep. We made our way to the Diaspora Yeshiva
courtyard for yet another simcha, the Bat Mitzvah
meal in honor of the young woman we had come together to celebrate. Despite having been awake a good part of the
night, the young woman gave a beautiful speech honoring Torah and her
family. A guest from Metzad,
a Rabbi, had brought along his young sons who formed an impromptu choir on cue
from their father and filled the courtyard with their clear young voices
singing Tehillim and praises of Hashem. Only in
am, the night’s festivities had become weighty upon the minds and stamina of
most of our group. I had been awake for
28 hours and was beginning to feel it, but it was not a grievous weight. Slowly we dispersed, gathering into small
groups to accompany each other for the walk to our respective homes. In not so many hours, Shabbat would arrive
and others would be attending Shavuot meals in the afternoon. Time to recharge the
batteries of body and soul and to treasure the Living Waters from On High that
we had imbibed throughout the night.
It was Shavuot in