Shavuot, to be observed and celebrated this year on Tuesday night, Wednesday and Thursday, is a unique festival. There is nothing equivalent to the model seders that we share with others beyond our community. There is no explicit call to “those who are hungry,” as at the seder, or to house the homeless, in the spirit of the fragile sukkah. Hardly anyone attempts to equate the spirit of the holiday to political and social causes in the world at large.
A growing number of American Jews have been following with increasing outrage the plight of the Women of the Wall, the small group of activists in Jerusalem seeking to pray as a group at the Kotel (the Western Wall) in prayer shawls, kippot and tefillin.
On Monday, halfway through the Sefira period between Passover and Shavuot, between the holidays that celebrate the Jewish people’s ancient delivery from slavery in Egypt and their receiving the Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai, a few hundred members of the Jewish community met to consider our communal responsibilities to slaves in our days.
Twenty years after his death, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the beacon of the Modern Orthodox movement and rosh yeshiva of the rabbinical school of Yeshiva University, is still mourned and remembered not only for his towering intellect and Talmudic teachings but his willingness and ability to blend a life devoted to Torah study with a full appreciation of the blessings of modernity.