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by Eugenia Gentsis, MHWOW Program Specialist

Every year, after celebrating Pesach, begins one of my favorite parts of the Jewish year: The Sefirat HaOmer (counting of the Omer). Beginning on the second night of Passover, we engage in this unique mitzvah of spiritual preparation, where the Torah commands us that during this time each year we count seven complete weeks, for a total of 49 days. Like a child that counts the days until summer break, the idea of counting each day represents anticipation for the eventual giving of the Torah by G-d to us, on Mount Sinai. This seven-week period then culminates in Shavuot, which means “weeks”, and is known as a holiday of intense learning, as well as the “cheesiest” holiday of the year, full of delicious dairy recipes.

The Exodus from Egypt that we retell on Passover can be understood as the literal escape out of Egypt that our Jewish ancestors experienced, but also as a fantastic metaphor for ridding oneself of personal limitations. During the days of the Omer counting (which is happening right now), we strive to learn more and work to be a better version of ourselves. As we search for answers and look for advice, it is also a great moment to think about the concept of wisdom and where we look for it when we need it. Some of us rely on more traditional texts, some read articles and books, and some look for wise words from family members, friends, and little personal rituals

As our extensive and diverse Moishe House family prepares for Shavuot, I wanted to ask what or who they consider their best source of wisdom and to share their personal rituals to celebrate Shavuot. Upon my own reflection, I noticed that my mom was born on Shavuot according to the Jewish calendar which is a perfect coincidence because she is always my best source of advice and wisdom. Sr. MHWOW Program Specialist, Ziva considers her husband, Sam, as her source of wisdom for her, as she always looks to him when she needs to decide or looks for a piece of advice. Another MHWOW Program Specialist, Nandi gets inspired by looking for quotes by poets, writers, and famous people. And Director of MHWOW, Alyssa likes relying on podcasts for wisdom. She likes a lot the ones of self-help ones like “Financial Feminist” or ones about personal leadership like “Let Them Lead”, both of which allow her to learn so much about herself. All the MHWOW team agrees that the best way to celebrate Shavuot is to learn something new and gather with our friends for a picnic in the park with plenty of wine and cheese or do some Torah study with cheesecake! Talking to our colleagues about their sources of wisdom and their favorite ways to spend Shavuot, we found out that:

For Michael (RSJ Community Manager), he finds wisdom in “the moment to reconnect with my inner me when spending time alone,” and that during Shavuot, “it’s a great time to make cottage cheese desserts.”

Tanya Zaytseva (RSJ NA Community Manager) says, “I look for wisdom in good books and smart people, and Shavuot is an excellent time for making blintzes and doing some Jewish learning! Also, in the past couple of years, I got into gardening, so now I have the special pleasure of cutting some flowers and decorating the house.”

For Chelsea Levron (Retreat Specialist), the source of wisdom is her best friend’s dad, a Rabbi, and she usually likes to have more cheese than usual on her Shavuot table!

Ari Perten (VP Programming) thinks that the best source of wisdom in the Jewish tradition, so he likes to spend his Shavuot focusing on learning.

Albert Closas Oliveras (Pod Manager) feels that his best source of wisdom is his friends. He likes to spend Shavuot centering vegan “dairy products” on his table during a potluck dinner with friends and asking friends to bring a text or any visual material they want to share with the group that currently feels relevant to them.

Adam Rossano’s (Associate VP of Global Development) sources of wisdom are “Elders – grandparents or elderly people in my community.” He usually loves to spend his Shavuot doing a Tikkun Leil, Jewish learning, until he falls asleep.

Josh Neirman (Immersive Experiences Program Manager) thinks that the best source of wisdom is “My Moishe House colleagues! They have so many wise words on how to handle any situation that comes up for which I might need advice on how to handle.” And the best way to celebrate Shavuot is to eat some cheesecake and do a little learning!

Matt Bonney-Cohen (Base Program Director) finds the best source of wisdom in his kids: “they constantly teach me how to experience joy, awe, and curiosity in the simplest moments of life.” And he likes spending his Shavuot with the all-night Tikkun Leil.

For Wally Liebhaber (Latin American Regional Jewish Educator), the most significant source of wisdom is Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (Z`L). For his Shavuot celebrations and rituals, Wally likes to “unite identity, studies, and experience.”

For all members of the team, we like to spend Shavuot similarly and we hope that one of these ideas might inspire you. Spend time outside, put together a picnic full of cheese, get together and learn about Shavuot, discuss exciting topics related to the holiday, and get inspired by either more traditional sources of wisdom or discover new ones.

As you plan for your Shavuot celebrations for your community, ask yourself and your friends what or who are the sources of wisdom and inspiration for you in your self-improvement journey? It may bring you many surprising responses that inspire you to prepare for this fantastic summer holiday and discover many exciting things about yourself and your community.

We are here to help you discover how to celebrate this Shavuot in your way! Reach out anytime at withoutwalls@moishehouse.org