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Shavuot at a Social Distance

May 21, 2020 | by David Kilimnick

Clean your house, take a bath, throw in a load of laundry and break out the cheese cake.

On Shavuot we commemorate the receiving of the Torah and the grain harvest. This year, most of us will have to harvest on our own. But we can still make this holiday a beautiful and meaningful one. Here are my suggestions for making your Shavuot memorable at home.


In the desert, the Jews were commanded to ready themselves for the momentous occasion of receiving the Torah by cleaning their clothes and becoming ritually pure. Let’s bring that lesson to 2020. I understand you’ve been at home for the past two months thanks to Coronavirus, but it’s about time you bathe. If for some reason you need one, let Shavuot be your excuse. And why not prepare yourself for the receiving of the Torah by doing a load of laundry. Social distance doesn’t mean you have to develop a body armor of body odor.

As many of us are still not back at work, you can spend extra time cleaning your house. This will help make your Shavuot feel more like Pesach.

Tikun Layl Shavuot

The word ‘Tikun,’ meaning fixing, is why we learn the night of Shavuot. The tradition is that the Jewish people fell asleep the night before receiving the Torah. Let’s be honest, many of us have fallen asleep at crucial moments in shul. For example, listening to sermons. So then we tried to fix our mistake by staying up all night in shul and talking to our friends.


The traditional way of learning Torah, with other people, is with a friend, known as a Chavrusa. You learn with somebody else as there are seventy ways of seeing the Torah and the best way is to fight with your friend about why his way is wrong.

Now, as you will need to be at least six feet away, you have another reason to yell at them. He’s having trouble hearing your interpretation of Torah law that at 3AM make absolutely no sense.

Stay Up All Night

Homes are easier places to sleep at than shuls. Now, if there were sermons given at home, that would be even better.

So, how do you stay up at home? Turn your house into my shul on Shavuot. This includes having the necessary amounts of coffee and ice cream on hand. I don’t know if ice cream keeps you up, but people in my shul enjoy it.

If you’re still having problems staying up, make sure your kids are up. They won’t let you sleep. Have one of your kids kick you in the back. That will remind you of the guy with the fat knee in the seat behind you at shul.

If you fall asleep, don’t worry. You can tell everybody you were up all night. They won’t know.

Eat Dairy

Eat blintzes, kugel, cheesecake. There are other ways to upset your stomach as well.

The real reason for this tradition is to make it harder for you to stay awake. It’s a test to see how bad you feel for falling asleep at Sinai.

I’m still disturbed that some French people came around, rolled over a crepe and called it a blintze. That kind of interference can ruin Ashkenazi tradition. I’m sharing my complaints about our amazing food now, as I may not have anybody to complain to on Shavuot.

Don’t Have to Worry About Putting on Weight this Holiday

Being stuck at home for two months, you’ve already put on as much weight as humanly possible. So this Shavuot, keep eating. You’ve already started buying pants with elastic waist bands – you might as well get your money’s worth.

Read the Book of Ruth

Very fitting for these times. Upon the death of her husband, Ruth tells her mother-in-law, (1:16), “Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you lodge, I will lodge.” Apparently, the Book of Ruth wasn’t written during the times of Coronavirus. It’s hard to imagine, but it seems like people were allowed to be close to others in the times of Ruth. Back then, love was not considered dangerous. Today, I would never tell anyone I want to be close to them, unless of course I want to get arrested.

Commemorate the Grain Harvest

It’s important to connect with our agricultural origins. Harvest at home. Go to your kitchen and check the crop yield. Check the pantry and see if it was a successful trip to the grocery store. If there’s a still unopened bag of kettle chips, you shopped well.

Or if you want to try your hand at gardening maybe pull up dandelions and shrubbery have been growing for the past five years. Your neighbors will appreciate it. They will circle the day on their calendars – the holiday when Jews finally get their lawns under control.

I just hope that by the time the summer is over, we can celebrate holidays together again. There’s only so much cheesecake a person should eat alone.

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